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June 9, 1932 ~ Nov. 3, 2020
On Nov. 3, 2020, James Conrad Carstens left this world to be with his “Sweetie.”
Jim was born on June 9, 1932, to Alex Carstens and Nona Rector-Carstens in Rifle, Colorado, and later, his family moved to Meeker, Colorado, where he attended primary and secondary schools and graduated from Rio Blanco County High School (Meeker High School) in 1950. He then joined the United States Navy in January 1952, and attended basic training in San Diego, California. When Jim completed his training, he was stationed aboard the USS George Destroyer Escort. In the summer of 1952, he was sent to Class A Yeoman school where he graduated at the top of his class. One of his favorite assignments during his military service was being more suitably stationed for ground duty in Kodiak, Alaska, after perpetual bouts of seasickness. During his tour of duty, Jim received the “Korean Service Medal,” the “United Nations Service Medal,” the “National Defense Service Medal,” and a “Good Conduct Medal”, and he was honorably discharged in November 1955. Upon his discharge, he moved to Rangely, Colorado, where he began dating the love of his life, his “Sweetie,” Mary Dawn Slack. The two lovebirds were married on June 16, 1957, in Meeker, Colorado.
Jim and his bride moved to Grand Junction where they both enrolled in courses at Mesa College. After Jim completed his Associate’s Degree, the couple moved to Gunnison, Colorado, where they were both resident assistants at Western State College (WSC), and Jim obtained his Master of Arts in 1961 from WSC. Jim subsequently took his first teaching assignment in El Centro, California, but later returned to Grand Junction and was hired at Mesa College as an instructor in the business department. He then moved his family to Fort Collins where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Colorado State University and again returned to Mesa College as a professor. Jim was later hired as the Dean of the Business School and was very proud of the fact that he was instrumental in bringing the first masters program to Mesa.
Having the desire to raise their family in a smaller community, Jim and Dawn purchased and remodeled a historical home in Palisade in 1971, where they moved the family in 1972. Jim became a weekend farmer when he bought a peach orchard, but when his daughters didn’t build homes and raise his grandchildren on that land, he sold the orchard and dedicated his life to taking care of “Sweetie.” They remained in Palisade until their times of death.
Jim lived an active life filled with outdoor adventures. He was a master fly fisherman, enjoyed hunting, and loved driving fast in cars and on snow machines; he was flat-out crazy on motorcycles. He loved to “scooter-poop” on the desert with his Mesa College buddies and daughters, and if you look closely at the motorcycle trails on the north side of I-70, you might still see remnants of his numerous motorcycle escapades. When Jim could no longer safely participate in his outdoor activities, he switched to being a spectator at indoor sporting events. Jim and Dawn were often seen across Colorado at women’s volleyball and basketball games from middle and high school gyms to collegiate competitions at Colorado Mesa University.
Jim had many hobbies, including chess, cribbage, and “poker with the boys.” He hosted numerous crazy snooker and poker parties in the basement of the house, and thoroughly loved beating everyone in everything. No matter the sport or the activity, Jim was always the competitor in everything he did, and if he couldn’t win by following the rules, he was known to cheat and do it very well. Also, if he failed to win, he often had temper tantrums and would upset the board, throw his racket, or tear up the deck of cards, to the great humor of his family. Learning to navigate technology and playing games on his phone also created many frustrations for Jim, and the family often joked with him about him beating his phone. He dearly loved hunting and fishing with family and friends and spending time at both his Ute Creek cabin and his Arrowhead cabin. During his tenure at Mesa College, he stayed fit and ready for his outdoor frivolities by playing racquetball every day at lunch. After his retirement, he built a pickleball court at his home and participated in family tournaments, and when he could no longer play, he became the line judge where he could control the game and enjoy a “toddy.”
“Little fat-man Carstens” was forever the infamous jokester, and no matter the situation, he always had a joke to share or a witty comeback. He often entertained his grandchildren by rolling out his false teeth or asking if they wanted to see where the Indian had shot him. Although his ornery attitude was ever-present, his soft-heart was illuminated by his relationship with his dogs. He truly cherished his fur children and made regular stops for dog treats at the Edward Jones office on his daily walks.
Jim experienced many special friendships over the course of his life. The Ridings family in Meeker who provided him with a home during his youth was always dear to his heart. He maintained his jokester friendships with all of his Mesa College buddies even after his retirement. Jim and Dawn were also very thankful for the friendships they experienced and the assistance they received from their dear Palisade friends who are too many to list. Jim’s coffee club became increasingly important over the past couple of years and provided Jim with tremendous emotional support over the last nine months. After Dawn’s passing, Jim developed a very special bond with Shelly Cark who filled in as his daily cribbage buddy and dear confidante, and between her and Fritzi, he had a reason to get up in the morning and something to look forward to each day.
Jim is predeceased by his “Sweetie” Dawn Carstens, his parents, his two older brothers Clayton and Marvin Carstens, his younger brother “Spark” Carstens, and a great-grandson. He is survived by sister Karen (Bob) Miller; daughter, Staci (David) O’Connell of Pocatello, Idaho; daughter, Krista (Bill) Carsten of Hotchkiss, Colorado; grandson, Zachary O’Connell (Britta Usedom) of Bend, Oregon; grandson, Chase O’Connell of Idaho Falls, Idaho; grandson Brandon (Amy) Bell of Hotchkiss, Colorado; grandson, Keaton (Nicole) Bell of Palisade, Colorado; granddaughter, Ce’rra (Matt) Westerman of Hotchkiss, Colorado; granddaughter, Taylor Carsten (Marcus Norton) of Wiggins, Colorado; great-grandson, Paxton Bell of Hotchkiss, Colorado; great-grandson, Blaine Bell of Palisade, Colorado; great-granddaughter, Loni Bell of Hotchkiss, Colorado; great-grandson, Cortez Bell of Hotchkiss, Colorado; and great-granddaughter, Sienna Bell of Palisade, Colorado.
A celebration of life both Jim and Mary Dawn Carstens will be held on April 11, 2021 at 2 p.m. at Orchard River View in Palisade, Colorado. A potluck dinner will follow the service.
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