Jim Bischke passed away Jan. 6, 2009, with Betty, his wife of 54 years, at his bedside.
Jim was born on March 5, 1929, in Minot, N.D., and spent his early years living above his parents' grocery store. Later, following his father's death, Jim moved with his mother, brothers and sister to Grand Forks, N.D. There, he excelled as a star high school football and basketball player. In 1990, he was honored as a first round inductee to the Grand Forks HS Hall of Fame. He earned a scholarship to play basketball at the University of North Dakota. As a UND sports star, his photo appeared in a 1951 National Geographic article about the state of North Dakota. Jim was shown holding the ceremonial buffalo nickel trophy signifying UND's triumph that year over cross state rival NDSU.
In college, Jim met the love of his life, Betty Ouradnik of Larimore, N.D. They married in 1954, lived in Fargo, N.D., and then Minot and soon became the proud parents of Steve, Scott and Susie. Jim turned his business degree (and a year stint in law school) into a lifelong career for Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys), selling computers to banks and other businesses.
In November of 1968, Jim accepted a promotion to Billings, managing Burroughs's business operations for the state of Montana. Jim quickly found a deep and abiding love of Montana - for the bountiful hunting and fishing, for the wild and endless landscape of the Big Sky, for the state's rich history of mountain men and Native Americans. Jim loved Montana history, often reflecting, "I was born 150 years too late."
The family became entrenched in life in Billings, forming deep and lifelong friendships. Jim played golf weekly with friends on men's day at the Yellowstone Country Club. He and Betty enjoyed bridge club and entertaining. The family camped and skied, enjoying trips to Red Lodge and Big Sky with friends. Hunting and fishing became core to Jim and the family's early years. Trips to Ashland for deer and grouse were staples of each fall in Montana. Raft trips with friends to fish the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers served as endless sources of adventure and joy.
Jim was an excellent provider, assuring that the family had a beautiful home, college tuition and funds for travel. He was a humble and unselfish man, always putting family first. His kids are most grateful for the example he set.
Jim retired from Burroughs after over 30 years of service. He was well loved by those who worked for him, respected for his honesty and integrity, honored for his ability to mentor young folks he brought into the business.
During the early years of retirement, Jim and Betty enjoyed traveling overseas and then around the country in a small mobile home visiting family and friends. Later, Parkinson's Disease crept in, but Jim's friends - in particular a group of retired bridge players known as "The Grumpy Old Men" - showed their love and goodness by keeping him active and involved. Parkinson's grew to be a dominant factor impacting Jim's later years, but it was a disease of the body, not the mind. True to his nature, Jim spent time in his final years worrying about the wellbeing of others, while downplaying his own trials.
Throughout his life, Jim blessed us all with his grace, his kindness, his charm, and his fundamental goodness. We will miss him dearly.
Jim is survived by his wife, Betty (Ouradnik); his brother, Dutch (Kathy) of Brawley, Calif.; his sons, Steve (Terri) of Lake City, Fla., and Scott (Katie) of Bozeman; his daughter, Susie Iverson (Dennis) of Corvallis, Ore.; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Lydia Bischke; his sister Laura and his brother Kenton. The family suggests memorials be offered to support the Rocky Mountain Hospice, the Billings First United Methodist Church or the Parkinson's Action Network.
Cremation has taken place. Memorial services will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at First United Methodist Church.
Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary has charge of arrangements. Remembrances may be shared with the family by visiting www.michelottisawyers.com.