James Arnold Pridgeon
July 27, 2023
James Arnold Pridgeon was born November 23, 1965 in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to Jerry and Dorcas (McKean) Pridgeon. After a life of selfless service and brave sacrifice, he passed away in his sleep at his home in Sundance, Wyoming, on July 17, 2023.
The son of a construction superintendent, Jim (as he preferred to go by) grew up and attended
kindergarten in Sundance before the family moved to Rozet, where he attended school in Gillette. When Jim was 14 years old, his mother, Dorcas, passed away. As a young man, Jim worked cows and enjoyed hunting, fishing and backpacking in the summer months.
In high school, he played sports including football, wrestling and track and enjoyed art and history – but always said he simply couldn't do math.
Jim felt this limited his chances with college and so, on the promise of adventure and travel, he decided his future lay with the Marine Corps. Right after high school, and despite there still being nine months until his 18th birthday, Jim joined the Marine Corps as a Field Artillery Fire Control Man and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. During his time in the Marines, Jim served one seaside deployment in the Pacific Ocean, as well as one deployment to Panama.
In June of 1988, he left the Marines. Shortly after, in 1989, he joined the Army Reserves in Sheridan, Wyoming as a Carpentry and Masonry Specialist.
In 1992, he graduated college at Black Hills State University with a bachelors degree in art. That same year, he met his future wife, Michele Watson, while an officer cadet at Fort Still, Oklahoma. Jim entered active-duty army service as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Ordnance Corps, stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany.
He married Michele in 1994 and to this union his first son, Jonas, was born in Oklahoma City in 1999, while Jim was stationed at Fort Still. In 2001, Jim was stationed in Anzio, Italy. Jim and Michele's second son, Joshua, was born in Pozzuoli, Italy in 2003.
He told the tale of being sent to Italy in response to a request from NATO for a "LOPSO", which is British English for a Land-detachment Operations Officer. The U.S. Army heard "logistics officer" and offered Jim the position. Jim was placed in a small, international unit and found himself the attachment commander, reporting to an Italian colonel. It was a sharp learning curve – and not just the language. Jim was deployed to Iraq in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired as a Major in 2008, moving to Sundance with his family. He was finally able to settle down in his dream home, which he and Michele had built while they lived overseas.
Jim once said that, as a veteran, he never thought what he did was anything special – it was no different to any other job. He was always greatly fascinated by and appreciative of the high esteem in which our nation's veterans are held.
Jim was appointed as Crook County's Emergency Management Coordinator in 2009. After several years of service to the county, he decided it was time to commit to his passion of pursuing art full-time. Jim began creating wood sculptures of fish and the wildlife of Wyoming, using fire-burned Rocky Mountain juniper as his medium and glass eyes and paint to create realistic works of art. He sold his work at art shows, winning first place three times and second place once in the People's Choice category at Sculpture in the Hills.
He loved searching for arrowheads, collecting Indian pottery, rugs and moccasins and all things buffalo. He enjoyed reading about Indians and western history. You could rarely catch Jim by phone, but you could usually find him in his studio or garage, working on art or fixing something that had broken.
A compassionate man who was ever generous with his friendship and affection, Jim was beloved by his extended family and was the life of every family gathering. He was keen to be involved with community needs, offering his service to organizations including the Crook County Museum District, efforts to rebuild American Legion Post #45 and the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
He will be greatly missed by all who enjoyed his ready laugh, open heart and eagerness to give back to his community.
Jim is survived by his wife, Michele; his sons, Jonas and Joshua Pridgeon; his sisters, Jerry Maulik, Page Mamot, Mary Beets and Annette Pridgeon; his brother, Thomas Pridgeon; and numerous nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dorcas and Jerry Pridgeon, and stepmother, Rosetta Pridgeon.
A memorial service for Jim will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 28, 2023 at All Angels Episcopal Church, 1044 N. 5th Street, Spearfish, followed by a military ceremony at the National Cemetery in Sturgis at 2 p.m. His final resting places will be Black Hills National Cemetery, the Big Horn Mountains and south fork of the Powder River at Hole in the Wall.
Online condolences may be written at http://www.fidler-isburgfuneralchapels.com