Born in Lawrence, Kansas, to John Joseph and Grace Olsen Kistler, Jim grew up with his older siblings Joan and John Jr. in a loving household that greatly valued family, God, country and the opportunities and joys that education had provided them. Jim’s father was a Professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas and his mother was also an educator and writer. The family later moved to Grand Haven, Michigan, a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, and Jim went on to earn a degree in Geology from the University of Michigan. He harbored a life-long enthusiasm and love of his fraternity affiliation, Phi Gamma Delta, as well as intense loyalty to Wolverine football and basketball. Jim earned a Master’s degree in Geology at Northwestern University, and then decided to fulfill a life-long ambition to join the military, enlisting in the Air Force. Jim wanted to become a pilot, and when imperfect eyesight dashed that hope, the Air Force saw promise in Jim’s strong aptitude for science and sent him to study Meteorology at St. Louis University.
Jim was then stationed by the Air Force in Athens, Greece, where his job was to assess weather and flight risks for missions throughout Europe and the Middle East. There in Athens, in 1954, Jim met the love of his life, Norrita Weidman, a petite, red-haired dynamo of a flight nurse who, as it happened, had grown up in a small town also on the shores of Lake Michigan, just a few hundred miles from Jim and his family, although their paths never crossed before Athens. Post-military, the couple returned to the USA and married in 1956. Jim went to work for Chevron, as a geologist in oil exploration, but remained in the Air Force Reserves, retiring after 24 years with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Chevron first moved Jim and Rita to Salinas, CA where daughter Kimberly was born, and then to Bakersfield, where son Jay and daughter Karen joined them. From there the Kistlers were moved to Anchorage, Alaska, to the San Francisco Bay Area, and to London, England. In empty nest/retirement mode after more than 35 years with Chevron, Jim and Rita moved to Gig Harbor, Washington and finally in 2011 to Saratoga Retirement Community, to be near children and grandchildren.
Although sorely missing Rita who preceded him in death in 2017, Jim never lost his deep loyalty to and love of family, friends, fun, dogs, comfort food, God and country. Jim passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones on earth and into the sure embrace of those awaiting him above, especially Rita.
Jim is survived by his children: Kimberly Kistler Davidson (Bob Gawlik); Jay Kistler (Christine Conklin); Karen Kistler (David Ibarra); and granddaughters: Stephanie Davidson, Hannah and Nora Kistler; 3 nieces and 4 nephews, and so many, many friends who had become like family to him throughout his 91 years and many adventures.
Services will be held at Saratoga Federated Church on Saturday, January 18 at 11 AM, followed by burial with military honors at Madronia Cemetery, Saratoga at 2:00pm. Arrangements are through Darling-Fischer Mortuary of Los Gatos. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jim’s name may be made to the Humane Society at HSSV.org or a charity of your choice.