James "Jim" Dunham
James “Jim” J. Dunham, 86, of West Hartford, CT, passed away peacefully while surrounded by his loving family on Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Hartford, CT. Born October 9, 1931 in Pittsfield, MA, Jim was the son of the late Arlo H. W. Dunham and Ellen Elizabeth (O’Brien) of Pittsfield, MA.
Jim had an inspirational work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit even as a child. From delivering the local newspaper for 3 cents a paper (pocketing 1 cent), to caddying at the local golf club when he wasn’t tall enough to avoid dragging the golf bags on the ground, to removing dew from the greens with a bamboo pole in the early dawn, Jim was always hard at work. After graduating from Pittsfield High School (having already earned his pilot’s license when he was just 16 years old) he purchased his own private plane with which he and a friend started their own business transporting passengers and packages to various locales in New England and the surrounding coastline.
Realizing the importance of an education, Jim put himself through college and joined the ROTC. He earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA and then served in the United States Air Force as an officer earning the rank of Captain.
Jim was also a member of the Air National Guard. After his military service, he was recruited by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, CT where he worked for over 30 years. While there he befriended and roomed with a young test pilot, future Apollo 13 Astronaut and Representative from Colorado, Jack Swigert. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft is where he also met the love of his life, his eventual wife and partner, Barbara (Burke) Dunham.
Jim never lost that entrepreneurial spirit and, after starting a family, he and his wife opened their own home business selling custom Swiss Army knives, sunglasses and ski goggles to a variety of businesses including many of the ski areas throughout New England.
A solid athlete and competitor with a sense of adventure, Jim enjoyed skiing, golfing and flying. He trained with the local ski race team and won several trophies and awards. As a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, he eventually became a ski instructor at Ski Sundown located in New Hartford, CT where he taught his children how to ski as soon as they could walk.
An avid life-long golfer, one of his greatest accomplishments in the game was when he got a hole-in-one at the 13th hole at Rockledge Golf Club in West Hartford, CT. Thankfully his youngest son, Mike, was there to witness it.
Jim’s greatest pride and source of joy was his family, his children and grandchildren. His sense of humor and zest for life were unending even through his final days with us. That sense of humor was a source of strength and joy for his children and grandchildren.
An avid Red Sox fan and a lifelong Giants fan, he rarely missed a game.
Jim greatly enjoyed working with his hands in his workshop, home and yard. He made now-treasured furniture, including cradles and rocking horses for his grandchildren, dressers and other furniture for his family. He also enjoyed maintaining his gardens and landscaping.
Particularly over the past year or so, Jim also enjoyed frequent conversations with his brothers with whom he had great memories and shared much laughter.
Jim is survived by his beloved wife and partner of 55 years, Barbara J. (Burke) and his proud and loving children; a daughter, Deborah J. DelBarba, and her husband John of West Hartford, CT, his son James J. Dunham, Jr. of Granby, CT and his son Michael J. Dunham and his wife Amy of Avon, CT. He is also survived by his wonderful grandchildren whom he loved immensely, Anna, Samantha, Jacob, Alicea, Jordyn, Alexis and Blake. Jim is also survived by his older brother, William J. Dunham and his wife Ann of Pittsfield, MA, and his younger brother, Richard E. Dunham of Dalton, MA, as well as several nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be Tuesday, July 10 at 11:00 am in St. Timothy Church, 1116 North Main St, West Hartford, CT followed by burial in Fairview Cemetery, West Hartford. Everyone is requested to go directly to church. Calling Hours will be Monday, July 9 from 5:00 - 8:00 pm at Sheehan Hilborn Breen Funeral Home, 1084 New Britain Ave, West Hartford, CT.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jim’s name to Paralyzed Veterans of America in Wilton, NH https://www.pva.org
Online condolences may be made at www.SheehanHilbornBreen.com