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James Lars Peterson lived a big life that matched the size of his heart.
Born on October 23, 1967 in Livonia, Michigan, to Helene Joan Banta Peterson and Richard Erling Peterson, James was the youngest in a vibrant sibling tribe of six. He is survived by Karen and David Shapiro, Richard Peterson and Bonnie Tyler, Jon and Bonnie Peterson, and Judy and David Cope, along with a beloved band of nieces and nephews. Though the Peterson clan was spread across miles and oceans, they always remained close to his heart. He is predeceased by his parents and his older sister, Susan Peterson Coulter.
James moved with his family in 1970 to Salt Lake City, Utah and the band of merry pranksters were known to park rangers throughout the state for their annual outdoor expeditions. Some of James’ fondest memories and tallest tales were of family camping trips in the red rocks of Southern Utah that included everyone, even the cat. His love of the outdoors began there, and spanned his lifetime.
After graduating from Olympus High School in 1985, he joined the military at a tender age. Throughout his service, and especially during his time in Central America in the 80's and 90's, James used his Airborne and medical training to help others whenever, wherever and however he could. This was an impactful time in James' life. Though it left him with mental and physical battle scars that never fully healed, he was deeply proud of his service and the work he did for the greater good.
Following his military service, he studied Environmental Earth Sciences at the University of Utah and later transitioned to Chico State University in California, graduating with a BS in Computer Science in 1998. James was a computer adept and followed this career path to support multiple start-up companies. During this time, he enjoyed life with his partner Jean Harrison and her children Sterling and Meggin Menke, who he considered his own. He is survived by them, and was recently honored to officiate at his son Sterling’s wedding to his beloved Dayna Cline.
Life transitions brought James to Seattle from California in 2007. Always on the lookout for ways to make the world a better place, James channeled his computer skills into the development of his own business Total Tech Shop to support fellow entrepreneurs and Ameritocracy for political action with his bosom friend and co-conspirator Porter Bayne. While in Seattle, James surrounded himself with a close-knit group of adventurers who shared his love of rock-climbing, one of many outdoor passions at which he excelled.
In 2010, James found the love of his life, Amanda Bevill. They married at her family ranch in Montana in 2011 and moved there permanently from Seattle just two years later. James adopted Amanda’s entire family with his full heart, and is survived by his son Max McFarland, sister Jenny Bevill, her children Lily and Theo Giles, and is predeceased only three short months by his dad, Dick Bevill.
James and Amanda were constant companions, business partners and adventure buddies for the last twelve years of his life. They built a house on the ranch and awoke embraced by nature every day. Caring for the land and animals kept them close to home, and when they did venture out it was typically with multiple horses in tow. They logged countless trail miles in Northwest Montana from the Whitefish Range to Glacier Park all down the Rocky Mountain front and across the Bob Marshall Wilderness. James invariably had one eye down the next trail, and he always enjoyed the view. He is survived by his horses Tempo, Flower, Biscuit, Stroller, Cody, Dewy and his dog Little Blackie.
James was a quiet person, yet he lived a large life and always remained curious and eager to learn a new skill. Geophysicist, computer programmer, army medic, nurse, web designer, entrepreneur. sailor, horseman, rock climber, adventurer, world traveler, rancher, backpacker, hiker, camper, cyclist, ultramarathon runner, archer, ham radio operator and all around super-geek. He never stopped learning.
Above all else, James lived a life of service; not from a place of duty, but from a place of love. His prime directive was helping others, but he never made a big deal about it. James was forever prepared for any contingency, regardless of likelihood. He took much ribbing on this, yet he was the one to lend an extra flashlight, or a length of rope. He always had the multi-tool, and extra matches. You never know.
James didn't take anything for granted and found great joy in the smallest things. Though in his last years he struggled with his mental and physical health, James unfailingly brought that joy to those around him. He loved fiercely, and was fiercely loved. We are deeply saddened that on October 26th, he chose to take his own life.
The world is a little bit less kind with James’ passing. In lieu of flowers, please take this opportunity to love large, to help others, to do something good when no one is looking, to try something that you’ve never done before. That’s what James would do.
There will be a Celebration of Life on August 1st, 2023 at Walking Lightly Ranch, Whitefish MT with more details forthcoming in the spring.
If you are inclined towards a financial contribution to honor James, please give to his chosen cause, the Central Asia Institute, to advance education and livelihood skills, especially for girls and women, in remote and mountainous regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self harm, please know that you are not alone, and that there are resources available to help you. Call or text 988, or visit the Nate Chute Foundation’s website to find support.