James Michael McDonald Sr.

James Michael McDonald Sr. passed away to be with the Lord on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, of complications from pneumonia and COPD.

James, “Jimmy” to his family and classmates, was born March 1, 1937, in Cottonwood to Earl and Marguerite McDonald, the third of five children, with an infant brother, John, passing shortly after birth. Jim was raised on the family ranch in Fenn and attended Grangeville High School, where he lettered in basketball, track, baseball and band. He was elected student body vice president in 1955. In addition to his school activities, he was active in livestock 4-H, raising cattle with his older brother, Joe. He was elected Idaho state 4-H president in 1954, winning a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago that year. As well as cementing his love of animals and production agriculture, his time in 4-H taught him the importance of leadership and was a foundation for his lifelong leadership in the agriculture industry.

Dad entered University of Idaho in 1955, where he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and the manager of the basketball team. With a talent for the piano and clarinet, he was chosen as the house musical director and won several competitions. He also participated in Army ROTC as a member of the Chrisman Battalion, which lead to his commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves.

It was while attending college that Dad met a pretty blonde girl from Boise by the name of Beverly Jo Rasor. Thus began a 57-year-plus love affair. They were married in 1958 in Boise and subsequently both graduated from University of Idaho in 1959.

After graduation, they reported to Fort Lee, Va., where Dad attended the quartermaster basic officer leaders’ course. During his time in Fort Lee, Dad held several assignments. The most memorable being post beautification officer, where he was assigned the task of building the post golf course, which is still in use today. It was during his time at Fort Lee that the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in Cuba.

Dad and Mom then returned to Idaho to begin farming with his father at the family farm in Fenn. During the early 1960s, both Dad and Mom substitute taught, and Dad coached parochial basketball in Greencreek. In 1963, they were blessed with the adoption of their son, James “Mike” Jr., followed by the birth of their daughter, Shari, in 1966.

Dad had an exceptional eye for buying and selling cattle in addition to raising wheat and barley. From the 1960s through 1980s, the McDonald ranch was known for raising some of the best Hereford and later angus/black baldy steers on the Prairie. In the 1990s, markets and business plans required Dad to adjust to more exclusive crop production agriculture.

Dad became active in the Idaho County Wheat Growers and the Idaho Grain Producers in 1964, later serving as president of the county board in 1968. He began attending the Idaho State Wheat Growers meetings in Boise in 1967, eventually leading to his selection to serve as Idaho County’s director to the Idaho Wheat Growers. He served in that capacity from 1969 until 1984. He was elected president of the Idaho Wheat Growers Association in 1980. He also served on the executive board for the Idaho State Wheat Growers from 1977 until 1982.

In 1982, Dad was elected to serve on the U.S. Wheat Associates Board, serving on this board until 1988 and ultimately elected as chairman of the U.S. Wheat Board of Directors in 2002. It was during his time on the U.S. Wheat Board that he made several trips abroad, promoting the use and sales of American-grown wheat into Asia. Bev often accompanied him on his trips, enjoying travel together. He was always the proudest of his efforts in promoting Idaho and U.S. agriculture.

Additionally, Dad was appointed to the Idaho Wheat Commission in 1994 by Gov. Phil Batt. He served continuously on the commission for 11 years under three governors.

Dad was involved in local activities as well. He served on the board of directors for the Union Warehouse, now known as Primeland Cooperatives, for seven years and on the board of trustees for the Grangeville Elks Lodge for 11 years.

In 2004, Dad was recalled to active farm duty, assuming the responsibilities of field operations when Mike was deployed to Iraq. Dad never truly retired; he could always be found checking fields, on neighbors or helping the burn crew, moving equipment and taking care of the home place. He also enjoyed spending time with his granddaughters, who affectionately referred to him as “Papa.” He spent time teaching them to drive, how to operate farm equipment, and encouraging a love of horses.

Dad lost the love of his life in 2015, when Mom passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Jim is survived by their two children, James Jr. “Mike” (Nadine), operating the family farm in Grangeville, and Shari McDonald, living in Grangeville; two granddaughters, Sara Tacke (Clark), in Greencreek, and Kate McDonald, in San Diego; and four great-grandsons, Corbyn, Cael, Cieran and Carsten Tacke. He is also survived by his sister, Kathy Uhlorn (Dave), of Seattle.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Beverly; brothers Joe and John; sister Judy; and parents Earl and Marguerite McDonald.

Dad spent most of his adult working life serving in one capacity or another promoting Idaho wheat and the whole U.S. wheat industry. Of his endeavors in life, these where the ones he was most proud of. Along the way, he made so many friends and acquaintances. His love of agriculture has been passed on to his son, granddaughter and great-grandsons as well, and his memory will live on through their endeavors. To the friends and family closest to Dad, he will always be remembered for his modesty, love of animals, loyalty and love of family, and most of all, his tender heart. Words cannot describe how greatly you will be missed, Dad.

The family will host a celebration of Jim’s life at 3 p.m. July 18 at the family ranch in Fenn. All family and friends are welcome to come share memories and celebrate a farm life well lived. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you make a donation to Idaho County 4-H, or whatever charity you prefer in his name. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home. Send condolences to the family to blackmerfuneralhome.com.