Jesse Elwood Kurts went to be with the Lord on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Lewiston. He was 85.
Jesse was born July 26, 1933, to James O. Kurts and Melinda Ivy Johnson Kurts. He was the eighth of nine children and grew up in Paonia, Colo. Jesse and his three brothers spent weekends and summers working on the family ranch near Crested Butte, Colo., and he loved recounting tales of their adventures chasing horses, driving cattle and bunking out in an old line shack.
Jesse joined the U.S. Army in 1951 and served as a medic in the 2nd Armored Division as part of the 7th Army stationed in Bremerhaven, Germany. Upon his discharge in 1955, the Kurts family briefly homesteaded in Washington before settling in northern Idaho.
While visiting the Texas home of his elder sister, Grace, in 1957, Jesse met Ima Faye Oliver at a Sunday church service. The pair were married just two weeks later, and remained so for nearly 59 years, until Ima’s death in 2016.
Jesse and Ima made their home in Kamiah, and quickly started a family that grew to include four boys and one girl. During this time, Jesse worked as a log truck driver for Potlatch Lumber Co. and Dabco Inc. He enjoyed relaying stories of log drives down the river, and of winter days spent navigating enormous truckloads down the steep, icy northern Idaho grades. At the same time, he lamented the fact that he often had to leave for work before his children got up in the morning, and didn’t return again until after they’d gone to bed at night.
In 1975, Jesse moved his family to Caldwell to accept a position with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Irrigation District. Though he sometimes had to take odd jobs to make ends meet, he was grateful that his new position gave him more time to spend with his wife and children.
During his downtime, Jesse enjoyed being outdoors. He taught all of his boys to hunt, and the family often went camping in the woods, picnicking along the river or exploring Idaho’s back country. He also loved tinkering with anything mechanical, and possessed an amazing knack for repairing engines of all kinds.
Jesse and Ima retired in 1995 and returned to Kamiah, a place they loved, and where they were surrounded by family and friends. They often made trips to visit loved ones in southern Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Montana and Arkansas, but Jesse was always glad to return to their little home on the hill in Kamiah.
Jesse and Ima moved back to southern Idaho in 2013, when Ima began to require more health care than he could provide. Ima’s passing in 2016 brought great sadness, yet Jesse drew comfort from their mutual faith in Christ and firmly believed he would be with her again one day in heaven. In fact, Jesse once remarked that his greatest goal in life was to see all his children come to saving faith in Christ, so that the family could be together for eternity.
When his own health began to decline in 2017, he moved to the Idaho State Veterans Home in Lewiston. His easy-going nature, dry wit and love for storytelling made him a favorite with residents and staff alike. He made many good friends during his time there.
Jesse is survived by his five children: Stan and his wife, Nancy, with their children, Heidi and Jesse; Linda and her husband, Clinton, with their children, Candy and Wesley; Dan and his wife, Mary, with their children, Tyrell, Alex and Micah; Doug and his wife, Betty; and Don and his wife, Lori. Jesse also is great-grandpa to 14 beloved little ones.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Blackmer Funeral Home in Grangeville. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Idaho Veterans Assistance League (IVAL-North), care of Activities.