James T. (Jamie) Irwin, beloved and cherished father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend passed from this life to the next April 27, 2020.
James was born in Fairbanks, Alaska on August 17, 1964 to John D. (Jack) Irwin and Jennie Suckik Irwin. The growing Irwin clan lived just south of Nenana, where James was raised and where he eventually started his own family. He attended Nenana Public Schools, always excelling in math and science. He was a gifted and passionate athlete and a standout basketball player for the Nenana Lynx.
James married his high school sweetheart, Kimberly Dawn, and together they had three truly amazing children, Stephanie, Jesse, and Taylor.
James had an extraordinary work ethic, learning many trades throughout his life. At a young age he joined his father and two older brothers, Jack and Mike, working long days in the family business, Irwin’s Garbage Disposal. When the older brothers left home, James was joined in the business by two younger brothers, Marcus and Jason. As the middle sibling James had a long tenure in the family business and assumed full responsibility for the operation when his father retired.
James attended heavy duty diesel mechanics training in Colorado, earning a master mechanic certification. He also had a natural talent for construction and woodworking. And, like his dad, he enjoyed the challenge of finding solutions and repairing, restoring and recycling things. James had a passion for learning and was a constant and voracious reader—following in the footsteps of both his parents. He enjoyed being out in nature and had many adventures hunting, fishing, and camping with friends and family throughout his lifetime.
In 1998 James fell in love and married a second time. He and Gretchen added two more remarkable children to their family—Olivia and Charlie.
Above everything in life, James loved being a father. His dedication to his two beautiful daughters and three sons is truly what defined his life. He taught them to work hard, use and appreciate their God-given talents, make true and lasting friendships, and most importantly, to devote themselves to family. James loved nothing more than family and time spent with his tribe.
James was an extremely hard worker, but a fun loving man as well. He met each day with his shoulders square and his heart full of love and kindness. He made friends easily and his closest, lifelong friends supported him, without fail, through many struggles and hard times. It is a testament to his character that he was able to maintain close connections throughout the ups and downs of life. He never stopped caring about others.
James T. was preceded in death by his father, his mother, and his beloved granddaughter Addison Freeney. Picturing their joyful reunion is a source of comfort to the family during this time of deeply felt grief and loss. James is survived by his children: Stephanie (and Scott) Freeney and granddaughters Anya and Jamie, Jesse (and Ashley) Irwin and grandchildren Brayden ad Brooklyn, Taylor (and Lindsy) Irwin, Olivia Irwin, and Charlie Irwin; his siblings, Marie Irwin Monroe, John (Jack) Irwin, Mike Irwin, Skook Irwin, Marcus Irwin, Jason Irwin and their spouses; and a long list of nephews and nieces and other extended family members and friends. A family so large and inclusive, it’s been dubbed the “Irwin Nation”.
Due to the social distancing mandates currently in place, the family will be holding a private service and burial so that James can be laid to rest now; and plans for a celebration of life and traditional potlatch are underway for a time in the future when all who loved James can safely come together.
The family is finding comfort and healing by remembering all the good and wonderful things James stood for and did in his lifetime. We will remember his ready smile, his loving nature, his brilliant mind, his hardworking hands, his laugher, and all the love he poured out to us while he was here.
The Irwin family would like to express our deep gratitude to David O’Brien for the unfailing love and friendship he extended to James. David was a brother in every sense of the word, right to the very end. Thank you David, we love and appreciate you.
“The culmination of one love, one dream, one self, is the anonymous seed of the next.” - Mark Nepo
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