On Sunday, July 5th, 2020, James Terry Sproul, a loving husband, father, and grandfather, lost his courageous battle with cancer at the age of 67. He was born on July 28th, 1952 as the first child of Niles Arnold (Jim) Sproul and Christi Jean Sproul. He was later joined by his brother Guy and sisters Sally, Mary, and Nancy.
Jim and his siblings grew up on Sproul Ranch in Bear Valley, where his grandfather Niles taught him how to work cattle, mend fences, maintain equipment, put up hay, and many other life skills that he, in turn, passed on to his kids. At the ranch, Jim developed a love for hunting, guns, and snowmobile racing. While there, he managed the Snowhaven snowmobile racetrack in Bear Valley. He organized biathlon racing and competed in multiple snowmobile racing events throughout the pacific northwest, often dominating the competition and bringing home multiple trophies. In later years, his love of guns resulted in a new hobby, black powder target shooting, where again, Jim was a fierce competitor. Jim always gave 100% in the competition of life.
Jim and his wife of 40 years, Carlyn Jo Sproul raised their 6 children, Ben Brandt (Vivian), Andrea Combs (John), Bill Sproul (Johni), Jamie Thomas (Beau), Wendy Ballou, and Alma Mattocks (Jimmy), on the family ranch in Bear Valley. In later years, Jim and Jo moved to John Day, where his 14 grandchildren became more prominent in Jim’s life.
Jim met Jo when his mother hired Jo as his housekeeper while Jim was at elk camp. Jim told Jo many years later that when he and Mike Moore came home from hunting, Jim was surprised to walk in and find her, elbowing Mike and saying, “Look what my mom got me”! For Jo, life with Jim was never boring. He loved to tease and poke the badger, his pet name for her. But Jim loved deeply and was never afraid or too shy to tell Jo he loved her. He never missed a day to tell her in 40 years.
Growing up with Jim as a guiding parental force created a few challenges for his children as adults. Having witnessed feats of marksmanship that defied the laws of physics coupled with adventures and misadventures that rivaled the tallest of tales, describing our childhood to those who led more sheltered lives brings looks of disbelief if not an outright challenge to the veracity of the story. But for those who spent any time with Jim you know; it was even more amazing than it sounded.
Not only did his children have amazing experiences with Jim, but his belief in their abilities and his matter of fact approach to everything he asked them to do lead them to be strong, independent, hardworking adults that can solve problems with creative methods. Jim taught his children the value of hard work and integrity. He taught them how to put a headstall on the most difficult horses, pull swathers out of “get stuck weeds” without a chain, make any machine run, drive tractors and cars before they had licenses, and understand the importance of putting in as many hours as it takes to get the job done. Jim was not one to spend time telling his kids how much he loved them, he simply showed them every day by giving them his time, teasing them endlessly, and leaving them a lifetime of precious memories, outlandish stories, and a host of interesting “Jimisms”. His kids and grandkids will forever remember fondly being referred to as a trollop or a heathen, being told that if they didn’t behave themselves, he was going to put them on the top of the Christmas tree, that grandma is mama badger, that when the boys got to a certain age, it was time to cut their tommers off, and when the girls got to a certain age, he was going to have their parents lock them up to keep the boys away, and when you play a game with dad/grandpa, it will always be called “Jim wins”.
Jim was known far and wide for his ability to BS. He never knew a stranger and could carry on a conversation with anyone about a broad range of topics. His family recalls that almost every trip to town consisted of “errands”, which was really just an opportunity for Jim to catch up with his friends about the local happenings. Jim’s “this’ll just take a few minutes”, was more than likely to take upwards of an hour. Every road trip included at least one of these errands, “seeing a man about a horse”, songs with funny made-up lyrics, and at least one opportunity to scare Jo.
One of Jim’s best qualities was his ability to build deep friendships with a diverse group of people. Throughout the years he made lifelong friends that were always present in his life. These friends were not just Jim’s best friends, but they became family, being a consistent presence in the Sproul home and a great source of comfort and support through Jim’s final battle. Jim’s family will forever be indebted to his friends for the time, love, and prayers lavished upon them.
Jim is preceded in death by his father, Niles. He is survived by his wife, 6 children, 14 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, his mother, and his siblings.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, July 10, 2020, at 1:00 PM at the Canyon City Cemetery in Canyon City, Oregon. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Blue Mountain Hospice through Driskill Memorial Chapel at 241 S. Canyon Blvd., John Day, OR 97845.
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