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James Wesley Day, “Jim” to family and friends, passed away on Nov. 27, 2012. Jim’s dedication to his wife and children, along with his passion for teaching generations of students, made an indelible mark on those who knew him.
Jim was born in Pueblo, Colo., on Sept. 9, 1945. He was graduated from Pueblo’s Central High School in 1963, where he was the starting center on the 1961 Wildcats state championship football team.
He continued his education at Southern Colorado State College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1967.
Jim began his teaching career in California, eventually moving back to Colorado and later to New Mexico. His understanding of computers, combined with his passion for teaching, led to a lifelong interest in educational technology.
Jim taught for the Bloomfield School District for 14 years, completing his M.A. in educational administration at New Mexico State University in 1984. He became Bloomfield’s district director of computer activities in 1985. During that time he was appointed by the governor of New Mexico to tour districts in New Mexico to promote technology in education. He built Bloomfield’s first computer network, creating an elaborate wiring system spanning several campus buildings, and created New Mexico’s first software for computerized IEPs (Individualized Education Programs).
In 1987, Jim became principal of Bloomfield High School, serving in that capacity until he moved to Rangely, Colo., in 1992. He spent the next decade as Rangely Middle School principal and another six years as RE-4 school district superintendent. Jim also served on the Colorado Northwestern Community College board of directors and the Rangely District Hospital board.
The beliefs that guided Jim as an instructor carried into his career in administration. Jim insisted that every child deserved the opportunity to succeed and that school should be a safe place to receive an education. He lived out those principles in hours spent tutoring students or providing extra help, often in his living room and long after his retirement. He made a point of being engaged with his faculty and staff, regularly visiting classrooms and familiarizing himself with instructors’ subjects and needs.
Above all, Jim never moved forward until he knew that everyone he was teaching, whether a student, teacher, or fellow administrator, knew and understood the subject at hand. His signature catch phrase, “Are you with me?” will be echoed fondly by the students and fellow educators whose lives Jim touched.
Jim retired in 2009, spending one more year teaching high school math and returning to his original love of classroom teaching.
Jim’s passion for his profession was matched only by his commitment to his family. Jim’s daughter Erika, who was born in 1975, was one of the great joys of his life. He sometimes took her to school with him when she was young, and his pride was evident when she earned a master’s degree at Louisiana State University and continued to excel in every aspect of her career as a university librarian and educator.
In 1992, Jim experienced the second great joy of his life when he married Donna Kistenmacher. Through his marriage, he became the stepfather in name, but father in practice, of Donna’s three children, Aaron, Paige and Pam. The family gave Jim a purpose that deepened his reasons for working, softened his serious side, and honed the patience he’d acquired as an educator.
Jim was known for helping those he loved, from painting the eaves of Don and Tineke Peach’s home (he was terrified of heights) to caring for Donna, the true love of his life. Among the enjoyments of those years were officiating at the marriage of daughter Paige; sharing the company of “brother” in spirit Joe Kirkwood and wife Julia Davis, and longtime friends; spending time on his land in Pitkin; and appreciating the width and depth of Bob Dylan’s oeuvre. Jim’s immediate and extended family remember his humility, his self-effacement, and his desire to “always do more” for those he loved.
Jim is survived by his wife Donna; daughter Erika (Mark) Peterson; son Aaron Kistenmacher; daughter Paige (Jordan) DeMers; daughter Pam Kistenmacher; grandsons Logan and Ganan DeMers; and sisters Sandra Day, Susan Day, Christine Day and Janet Stauffer. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dorothy and Mike Day.
Family and friends celebrated Jim’s life at a memorial service on Dec. 1 at the Rangely Christian Church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Jim’s name to Special Olympics or Heifer International.