WHITEWATER—James A. Coburn, age 73, of Whitewater, passed away from natural causes on Feb. 7, 2018, at Fort Atkinson Hospital, surrounded by loving family. Jim was born Dec. 29, 1944, in Elkhorn, Wis. to Deane and Thusnelda (Kraeft) Coburn. Growing up in Whitewater as the youngest of three children, he was indulged and tolerated by his adoring parents and big sisters as he played basketball, performed barbershop quartet, and rode his motorcycle in the local quarry.
At St. Olaf College, Jim met Virginia (Ginny) Hanson. They married on June 24, 1967, after Jim graduated, but before he could follow through on his plan of rafting down the Mississippi River. Jim and Ginny returned to his home town, where he worked as a social worker for two years before joining the Coburn Company. His father and uncle quickly entrusted him with the company, and he devoted himself to growing it from a small mail-order dairy supply business to a worldwide distributor of dairy equipment and farm supplies.
As a boss, Jim was casual and approachable. He respected and supported his employees and was always available, using his social work training and listening skills to help whenever he could. He remained active in the company even after his sons assumed management, giving advice and opening the company mail until the day he died.
Jim loved Whitewater, serving on the City Council and Plan Commission for several years and, more recently, the Whitewater Community Foundation. He exemplified a caring community member with a global perspective. He loved to travel, combining business with family adventures all over the world. His favorite destinations included Baden Baden, Leipzig, and Puerto Rico, but wherever he went, his priorities were always music, fantastic food, and friends.
Jim also loved getting up early, giving gifts, Bach cantatas, public schools, Labrador retrievers, asking questions, trout fishing, exploring back roads, Trading Places (the movie), grilling by the pool, Friday night fish fry, sticky toffee pudding, Fiestaware and train rides, but most of all he loved his family. His proudest accomplishment was his seven grandchildren, who would always echo back his favorite parting words, “Peace, harmony, and the American way.”
Jim is survived by his wife, Ginny; son, Thayer (Anne) Coburn; daughter, Cara (Alex) Faris; son, Joe (Jess) Coburn; grandchildren, Aidan, Olive, Kate, Nola, and Langdon Coburn and Corinne and Odell Faris; sisters, Karen (Joe Svec) Coburn and Nancy (Jerold) Lenz; niece, Kirsten (Houkom) Hafner; nephews, Joel Houkom and Sheldon Lenz; and many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Service will be held Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018 at 3 p.m. at FIRST ENGLISH LUTHERAN CHURCH in Whitewater, followed by a 5 p.m. reception at the HAMILTON ROOM at the UW-WHITEWATER UNIVERSITY CENTER.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Whitewater Community Foundation. The Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater, Wis., is assisting the family.