James Robert Bassett


James Robert Bassett, 85 and a half, passed away during the big horse chase on Gunsmoke, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. It might have been the Virginian; frankly after years, they all look the same to his family.

“Jim Bob” was born in Detroit, Mich., March 1, 1935. He was the youngest son and second youngest child of Charles and Florence Bassett, who had seven children (and obviously a lot of cold winters to get through).  Born in the middle of the Great Depression, Jim learned how to squeeze the life out of a penny and fix anything so nothing new needed to be purchased; lifetime skills his daughters held little appreciation for, until they aged. He was raised “walking two miles to school in the freezing snow”, which apparently was blizzard-like every single day of his school year. It’s amazing he survived! He held memories of swimming holes, a one room schoolhouse, mink farm fun with his siblings, and shooting guns (but never his eye out). He let go of the memories that involved having three fun teenage daughters overseas. It’s probably best he did.  

Jim graduated Ithaca High School and entered the United States Air Force to become a pilot. He turned his life’s passion of flying into a 26 year long career as a fighter pilot, an embassy military group commander, a military base deputy commander, and eventually retiring as a full bird colonel. He received many honors and awards throughout his life, including earning an MBA from Auburn, the Distinguished Flying Cross given to him by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, 3 Silver Stars, 1 2-Oak Leaf Cluster, 1 10-Oak leaf Cluster, a Legion of Merit Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal, and an Air Force Commendation Medal.  He was accomplished.

He bought a farm near Mt. St. Helens and prepared to move right before the mountain erupted. With his wife, youngest daughter, and two dogs, he moved his family to Toledo and began his second careers as a volcano tour guide out of the Toledo Airport, a real estate agent, and a Centralia College Instructor.  Primarily though, he was a farmer with no livestock or crops, just planes. He had a good crop of planes over the decades though, and a big herd of parts and “stuff” to go with them. So farmer it is. After that, he just called himself retired and spent his remaining years having fun, doing volunteer work, flying his crop of planes, and dealing in antique model airplane engines.  

Jim’s was a long-time member of Toledo Presbyterian Church, known for tossing napkins at the church ladies, being an enthusiastic potluck partaker, and generous bake sale backer. Enjoyments included The Country House on Sundays in Kay’s section, Denny’s on Tuesday in Blanche’s section, and Fridays at Papa Pete’s in Castle Rock. He couldn’t figure out how he wound up with heart disease, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t diet related.  

Jim is survived by his no-western-watching-anymore wife of 61 years, Judith Ann Bassett. Also left behind were those three teenage girls all grown up. Eldest and most responsible daughter, Barbara Shillingford of Salt Lake City, Utah, middle and most over-achieving daughter, Linda Geer of New Port Richey, Florida, and youngest most talented daughter, Diane Bassett Geister of Vader, Wash., (they’re going to hurt me for that); sons-in-law, Gary Geister, Steve Shillingford, and Don Geer, will all miss his insight into the three daughters. Other survivors include grandchildren, Ryan Ehin, Sarah Buck, Sam Shillingford, Alex Shillingford, Shane Geer, Jake Geer, George Geer, Charlie Geer, Mathew Keksi, Katherine McGraw, Samantha Geister, Jessica Rudkin, and Mellissa Willard; and great-grandchildren, Addisyn Ehin, Harper Ehin, Harper Redding, Reid Redding, Jackson Buck, Carson Buck, Vanessa Geer, Nessa McGraw, Christopher Willard, Renee Willard, Ryan Willard and Marilyn Gomez.  

There will be a private ceremony  for the family. Due to COVID-19, there will be no big gathering celebration of life service until restrictions have been lifted. We’ll dig him up for that… wait… never mind. I’m being told he stays put once buried. We’ll still have the service, but no viewing this summer apparently. That’s probably a good idea.

“We hope dad’s obituary

brought you as many smiles

reading it as he brought

us smiles knowing him.

Life is short,

love deep & laugh hard.”