James was born in Hugo, Colorado, the second eldest son of George and Idalean Van Arsdale. He took part in all the school activities and became an Eagle Scout before he graduated from Hugo High School in May of 1944. He enlisted in the US Navy, V-5 Navy Air June 15, 1944. He enjoyed his tour of duty receiving his honorable discharge June 30, 1945. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Marketing in August of 1948. In September of 1948 Jim went to work in the marketing department of Continental Oil (Conoco). He worked in various places for Conoco. While stationed in Pueblo, Colorado he met the love of his life, Eva Mae Thompson. They were married on February 25, 1951. From 1952 to 1956 they were blessed with three sons, Kim, Scott, and Duane. In 1967 the family was transferred to Billings, Montana. Jim became interested in the new Billings City Charter. He was elected as a City Council member for Ward 4 in 1977. He was re-elected in 1979 for a four year term. In 1981 Jim was to be transferred to Houston so he took early retirement in order to stay in Billings. On November 8, 1983 he was elected as Mayor of Billings and was re-elected for two more terms completing his tenure in January 1990. During this time he served on numerous state committees including serving as the President of the Montana League of Cities and Towns. The Billings Chamber of Commerce appointed him as co-chair of the Preservation of Pompey’s Pillar Committee, which was instrumental in designating it as a National Monument. Jim was honored to be appointed to the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. He and Eva attended many of the L & C Bicentennial celebrations held throughout the United States. Other boards he served on: Chairman of Deaconess Hospital Foundation and Board of Trustees Deaconess Development Foundation. He was presented with the Montana Tourism Person of the Year in 1989. His weekly schedule for many years included meeting with five other Walk to Emmaus men, attending Village Golden K Kiwanis (past president), volunteering at the Billings Clinic, participating at the YMCA, and spending time with his family. He is survived by his three sons; Kim, Scott (Lyn), and Duane (Sarah); 10 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. He also has two brothers, George and Don, numerous nieces and nephews in Colorado, and many cousins throughout the US.
Cremation has taken place. Memorial services will be 11am Thursday at First United Methodist Church. A private interment will be held at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to Special K Ranch, Inc., 34 Special K Ln. Columbus, MT 59019, Billings Clinic Foundation, 2917 10th Ave. N. Billings, MT 59101, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation 2050 Overland Ave. Billings, MT 59102 or a charity of your choice.