James “Jim” Richard Thill, Sr. 86, of Altoona, WI passed away peacefully at Mayo Clinic Health Systems – Eau Claire, WI on Sunday, March 31, 2019, surrounded by family who loved him and embraced his zest for life.
Jim was born July 16, 1932, in Hamburg, WI the son of the late George and Elsie (Hueftle) Thill.
After graduating from Stanley High School Jim went to work on ore boats on the Great Lakes where he established his passion for the lakes and boating. After the ore boats, he purchased a milk route, and on a chance visit to Eau Claire for a parade, met the love of his life, Waneta (Nita) Amundson. They married in Stillwater, MN on Oct 3, 1951. Jim was drafted into the US Army and was stationed at Ft Belvoir, VA where he served as a military policeman and heavy equipment operator.
After the Army, Jim and Nita returned to Wisconsin to start their lives together with their growing family. Jim started a trucking company in Ladysmith, WI and then went to work for Bark River Culvert and Equipment Company as a construction equipment mechanic. From this experience and knowledge, he founded Thill Track and Tractor Service that grew from his vision to a worldwide network of heavy construction equipment parts distributors. Jim was a founding member of the Independent Distributors Association of America, which allowed Jim and Nita to travel and meet many new friends around the world. Jim served on the Board of Directors for Community State Bank in Eau Claire. After retirement, Jim and Nita wintered on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 30 years along with travelling the world and meeting new friends.
Jim enjoyed working with his hands and was a long time member of the Eau Claire Model T Club the Terrific T’s. He restored many old cars and won national awards for his special 1927 Model T along with blue ribbons at local parades. Jim had a lifelong love for the Great Lakes. Jim and Nita were avid boaters and spent many years navigating the Mississippi River, all five Great Lakes and Canadian waterways, and the Inside Passage of Alaska. They were awarded the Great Lakes Cruising Club Admiral Bayfield award for their travels on their boat, Moderation. Jim was a proud member of the Waimea Rotary Club and Jim and Nita were instrumental in helping to build the North Kohala Medical Center. Jim was a voracious reader with a love of history, always a wealth of historical information and knowledge, which he would share with a very thorough answer if you asked.
James is survived by his wife Waneta, of 67 years; Children, Sandi Thill of Hawaii, Linda Blackdeer of Wyoming, Mary Ann (Dino) Amundson of Lake Hallie, Jim (Peggy) Thill Jr. of Eau Claire, Robert (Robin) Thill of Fall Creek, Connie (Dan) Goss of Eau Claire, Cathy (Jon) Olson of Altoona, Joseph (Cheri) Thill of Colorado; Grandchildren, Shanna, Gary, Christy, Jess, Tim, Jim III, Sarah, Luke, Caleb, Emily, Danielle, Heather, Koleena, Ryan, Kyle, Casey Mae, Nick, Jadyn and Chase; 23 great grandchildren, 2 brothers, George “Bud” (Bonnie) Thill, William “Bill” (Beverly) Thill; nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Jim was preceded in death by a sister Delores (Dick) Combs, son-in-law John Blackdeer and a granddaughter Christy Ziska.
A Memorial service will be held at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at Stokes, Prock & Mundt Funeral Chapel 535 Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona, WI. Friends my visit from 11 a.m. to time of service. Interment will follow at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery in Eau Claire, WI.
In lieu of flowers, pay it forward and send a donation to a charity of your choice. As Jim would say, “Do the best you can with what you have. Be nice and take care of each other.”
Cremation Society of Wisconsin, Altoona is assisting the family. Online condolences may be shared at www.cremationsociety-wi.com