James Patrick Baumgardner, our wildly wonderful husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, known for his big heart and big laugh, passed away peacefully at home on Jan. 15, 2020, after a long illness, which he fought like the warrior he was. He was surrounded by his wife and children, which is exactly how he wanted it.
Jim was born on Nov. 25, 1940, as the middle child of five siblings in a very proud, Irish-Catholic Anaconda family. He grew up rabblerousing in Goosetown, working on cars, playing football and generally causing trouble with his many friends. He was well loved in school and often liked to remind us in jest that he was named “Teen of the Year,” or “TOTY” as we came to call it.
After high school, Jim served in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Ord in California. His time there was brief, and he joked that he was only Christmas help. Shortly after, Jim met the love of his life, his Louisiana belle, Cherry Broussard with the Southern drawl, at a dance in the basement of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Billings. He and his friend had a bet about who would date her first; thankfully, Jim was victorious. They married at St. Pius Church in Billings in 1962.
Jim later went to work as an insurance adjuster working for insurance companies until his deeply entrepreneurial spirit drove him to launch his own adjusting firm. By the time he retired in 2000, after more than 50 years of the insurance business, Baumgardner-Lind Adjusters was a statewide business.
In the meantime, over their nearly 58 years of marriage, Jim and Cherry raised three children, Kevin, Colleen and Colette, all of whom live in Billings. Jim was quick to tell his children of his love for them and pride in them, and the feeling was intensely mutual. Jim especially doted on his four grandchildren, who all live in Montana. No one could work Jim over quite like his grandkids, and he loved to celebrate all of their accomplishments, big and small. He loaded them up with sugary treats, trips to Chuck E. Cheese, garage sale adventures, and always had at least a $20 cash reward for even the smallest of household chores.
Forever the extrovert, Jim loved to spend time with friends, was known as Jimmy to those closest to him, and loved a practical, long-running joke. His devilish smile, exceptionally quick wit, and contagious, big laugh drew people to him like a magnet. He was making us laugh clear to his last day in this world, still planning his training for the Navy Seal career that never was. When hospice collected his biographical information and asked for his phone number, he exclaimed, “Young lady, I’ll have you know that I am a married man!”
He and Cherry loved to travel and share anything from a small road trip around the state to an annual trip to Mexico with friends. Later in life they became “Winter Texans,” spending the cold months of the year at their second home on North Padre Island in Texas. Jim loved a project and always had several going, usually fixing a totaled-out car, remodeling a house, or tinkering in his garage. He was passionate about Cadillacs, convertibles, ’50s music, and licorice (or really anything sweet).
Jim wanted to be remembered as the medical pioneer that he was. Jim fought back ferocious heart disease for more than 40 years. A little over a year ago, he agreed to be the first person in the world to undergo transcatheter mitral valve replacement with mitral valve clips in place. Talk about brave! He hoped that others would benefit from his procedure and that science would be advanced. We couldn’t be prouder of this incredible man. The family also wants to give a shout out to his extensive medical team both here and in Minnesota, with special thanks to Dr. Kristin Scott-Tillery for her incredible compassion and devotion to his wellness.
JJim was preceded in death by his parents, Art and Margaret Baumgardner; mother-in-law Effie Gillard; and his brothers-in-law Larry Harlan and Raymond Popp. Jim is survived by his wife, Cherry; his son, Kevin (Lisa) Baumgardner; his daughter, Colleen Baumgardner; his daughter, Colette (Bill) Davies and four grandchildren, Matt Baumgardner, Lauren Baumgardner, Jack Davies and Chloe Davies; as well as siblings Bill (JoAnn) Baumgardner, Joe (Mary Ann) Baumgardner, Annette (Ernie) Polutnik and Mary Brigid Harlan; and sister-in-law Faye Popp; many close-knit nieces and nephews, as well as an endless list of friends.
The vigil will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. The funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 717 18th St. West.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial to St. Vincent De Paul or the charity of your choice.