James Elgee was a naval pilot with three major currents that kept his life aloft…Family, Flag and Faith. These were the compass points of his life. He was described by those who knew him best as a consummate gentleman with integrity, a dutiful war veteran, a hard-working businessman, a well-respected father and husband, and a proud and devoted Catholic.
James ("Jim") Francis Elgee, born on April 30, 1924 to mother, Ruth Caswell, and father, James Elgee. He was a humble man and in the eyes of his five surviving sons-—Michael, Robert, Timothy, Mark, James—-he was a hero.
Jim grew up in St. Maries, where his father worked as a millwright and filer in the lumber business. While roaming the woods and rivers as a young boy, Jim met and became lifelong friends with Jack Gregory and future wife, Patricia Louise Olin. Together, they attended St. Maries High School, where Jim played football and basketball. He said many times that he spent the happiest days of his life there.
Jim graduated in a country at war and he answered the call. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942. Leaving St. Maries, he studied at both the University of Washington and University of Idaho. After flight training, Jim got his wings and became a naval officer stationed on both coasts, training pilots to take off and land on carriers. At the outbreak of the Korean War, he was a landing signal officer and had the distinction of being one of two men qualified as an LSO to land aircraft at night on the pacific coast. At that time, he flew every multi-engine naval plane made, from the TBM to the Grumman Albatross, specializing in the task of carrier onboard delivery. For 22 years, he served his country as a naval aviator and pilot where he developed a quiet, disciplined integrity that his sons revered and respected throughout his life.
In the midst of the war, while on leave, he came home to find his childhood friend, Patricia Olin, recently widowed. They married in 1947; she became his "co-pilot" in life and brought excitement, passion, and grace into the home. Together, they raised their five boys while globetrotting the world's naval bases—from Coronado, California, Pensacola, Florida, Naples, Italy, West Warwick, Rhode Island, Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Midway Island —before circling back around to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho when he retired in 1964. He then joined his friend Jack Gregory in business in Spokane, and later worked at LP Link Realty. He and Patricia were happily married for 59 years before her death in 2006.
In his quieter days, you could find Jim wading the waters of the upper St. Joe. He was an accomplished golfer and avid outdoorsman. He and Jack Gregory hunted and fished the high mountain ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, and Idaho. He was only one Desert Ram short of the Grand Slam. He loved to compete and challenged all comers to games of skill and chance. He could execute a masse, play tennis with a roof shingle for money, or win pies in card games.
From the comfort of his fireside chair, he also enjoyed a good cigar and an ice-cold gin martini, usually to the tune of Nat King Cole or the roar of a Gonzaga basketball game. But perhaps above all, he enjoyed a good laugh.
He had a wicked wit and a great sense of humor; he never laughed as much as when he was sitting, surrounded by his extended family and sons, at the head of the Thanksgiving dinner table, with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren crawling on his lap and over his feet.
Jim is survived by a legacy of 32 descendants, who are now dispersed throughout the Pacific Northwest, carrying on a family name that he made them proud to own. The last days of his life he spent reading stories to an ever-growing semicircle of adoring children and grandchildren and great grandchildren—as sharp and quick-witted as ever. He enjoyed watching them flourish near the same wooded hillsides that housed happy memories of his childhood, in the same walls that housed memories of a good life.
He peacefully passed away at his home in Coeur d'Alene on April 26, 2017 (four days before his 93rd birthday), with his youngest son James by his side. Following his compass points, Jim came in for his ultimate soft three point landing.
On Saturday, May 6, 2017 he will join his wife, Patricia, and his mother and father in the St. Thomas Cemetery at 3:30 PM following the high mass service that will be held at 2 PM at the Immaculate Conception Church, 614 E 5th Ave., Post Falls, Idaho. A reception is planned for Saturday evening at the Eagles Club in Coeur d' Alene, 209 Sherman Avenue, from 6-9 PM. His viewing and rosary will be held from 5 – 7 PM on Friday, May 5, 2017 at Yates Funeral Home – Coeur d' Alene Chapel, 744 N. 4th St., Coeur d'Alene.
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