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James Denevan

James Edward Denevan, 87, passed away peacefully on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Dow Rummel Village South in Sioux Falls, SD.

Jim was born to Herbert and Mary (Madel) Denevan on August 14, 1936, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He attended St. Joseph Cathedral School in Sioux Falls and graduated in 1955.

While Jim was in college, he met his future wife, Marilyn Graff, in West Sioux in Sioux Falls. Jim and Marilyn married on June 13, 1959, and shared 61 years together and three children: Jim, Teresa, and Tom. Jim’s journey to becoming a professor/coach was a long one as he attended several universities and accrued a surplus of credit hours. Jim earned degrees from Wichita State University (BS), South Dakota State University (MS), and finally his doctorate in 1989 from Oregon State University (Ed.D.). Earning his doctorate degree was a proud moment for Jim and Marilyn as they often had to relocate when Jim would take sabbatical leave to attend class (no internet classes back then), while still working full-time and never taking out a student loan.

Jim taught and coached high school or college in many communities: Bird Island, MN; Brookings, SD; Glenwood, MN; Ellendale, ND; Eugene, OR; Salem, OR; and Sioux Falls, SD, but the place he called home was Marshall, MN and Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU).

In 1968, Jim started teaching at SMSU in the school’s second year of existence, and many of those first-year colleagues remained lifelong friends. Jim taught Health and Physical Education with an emphasis in Pedagogy. Jim coached baseball for 21 seasons, winning the school’s first ever conference championship in 1974. In 2013, Jim was inducted into the SMSU Athletics Hall of Honor. Coach always welcomed players for a holiday meal or to hang out in the basement during tornado warnings.

After watching the movie On Any Sunday starring Steve McQueen, Jim thought motocross racing looked like something he needed to try, so at the age of 36 he bought his first dirt bike and Dodge with a 3 on the tree pop up van, and racing became his weekend obsession for the next 40 years. Jim owned and raced almost every make and size of dirt bike but seldom raced by those criteria. Instead, because Jim started later in life, he competed in races determined by age. Early in his racing career, he was in the over 30 class, as in over 30 years old. He then proceeded to the over 40 class, over 50, over 60, and finally the last age group, the “Old Timers.” The motocross community and especially the “Old Timers” gang was fond of Jim and became his second family. Their inner circle was known for sharing and rehashing (embellishing) racing stories. Unsolicited, Jim was kind enough to share those stories with the rest of us or anyone who would listen. Jim’s racing number was 17, and serendipitously, that’s the same date of Jim’s passing.

After retiring from Southwest, Jim moved to Sioux Falls to be closer to his children and grandkids. Lightning struck twice for Jim, Teresa, and Tom as they already had a great childhood growing up in Marshall and then got to double down and have their father close as adults. Jim enjoyed being around the grandkids as much as possible, and as they grew older, he became their biggest fan in the bleachers.

Jim was always tinkering in his garage working on projects and eventually took up woodworking, making furniture proudly displayed by Marilyn and gifting many of his famous breadboards to friends and family.

After he retired from racing, you could find Jim on a golf course or meeting Sterners and Knutsons at any nearby casino. Jim was proud of his hole in one at the age of 80. He spent many winters in Mesa, AZ, where he could race motocross, golf, hang out with his Canadian friends, and try his luck at the casinos (sense a pattern here?). The last 3 ½ years of his life were the most difficult as he truly missed Marilyn every day. Special thank you to all the staff at Dow Rummel for being so kind to Jim, taking his sharp-witted comments, and giving it right back to him.

Grateful for having shared his life are his children: Jim (Betsy), Teresa West (Paul), Tom (Kris), all of Sioux Falls, SD; grandchildren: Rich Denevan (Maria), Brittany Denevan, Sam Denevan, Dallas Tebben (Chrissy), Ann Gasper (Ryan), Emily Smith (Derek), Patrick West, Mari West, Alex Denevan, Erin Denevan, and Liz Denevan; 7 great-grandchildren: Merrik and Hailey Gasper; Lilly, Ray, and Madi Smith; Vivian and Evelyn Denevan; sisters-in-law: Jackie Thill (Gene) and Sandy Amundson (Ron Laughlin); and many nieces, nephews, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Marilyn, infant brother Patrick Denevan, sister Mary Lou Denevan, brother-in-law, Jon Amundson, and nephew, Brian Thill.

A Funeral Service will be at 11:00 AM on Thursday, May 23, at The Chapel at Dow Rummel Village South at 1310 W. Madison Street, Door O, Sioux Falls, with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be directed to the Dr. Jim Denevan Baseball Scholarship at Southwest Minnesota State University, Founders Hall 221, 1501 State Street, Marshall, MN, 56258.

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