Cover photo for James Merle Priest's Obituary
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1936 James 2020

James Merle Priest

September 22, 1936 — November 7, 2020

James Merle Priest was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho on September 22, 1936 and passed away on Saturday, November 7, 2020 in Idaho Falls.

He was the second child and oldest son born to James E. Priest (Buster) and Lavon Whitman Priest (Toots). He grew up in Taylor, Idaho, and attended schools in Taylor and Shelley, Idaho.

After graduating from high school in Shelley, he farmed in Rupert and the Shelley area. For many years, Jim owned and operated his own trucking business, hauling milk from the local dairy operations to the processing facilities in Blackfoot and Idaho Falls. After selling his truck business, he began a long second career driving a bus for INEL in Arco, Idaho. After retiring from driving the bus, he again resumed trucking for a few years, hauling groceries between Idaho Falls and Billings MT.

Jim married Karen R. Hanson (Likes) and they were the parents of four children: Sherrie Lyn Phillips (Mark), Kristine Jolley (Merrell), David R. Priest (Susan) and Bryce L. Priest (Traci). Jim has 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. Dad got great enjoyment from playing Santa Claus in the old Shelley 5th Ward. He would go house to house and deliver a paper sack of peanuts and candy to each child. Sometimes he would burst through the front door without warning, a bandolier of sleigh bells over his shoulder jingling and loudly shouting, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas. ”Dad was always up for another adventure: he loved to drive his old truck straight up into the foothills, and for years told us that GMC stood for “Great Mountain Climber.” He would hook a toboggan behind either a horse or his pickup truck, and tow several laughing and screaming children across the frozen snow. He was always up for a good practical joke, but had a lifelong fear of snakes. His friends would sneak up on him and throw a rubber snake in his path. That always made him scream. After Jim and Karen divorced, he moved from Shelley to Idaho Falls. He made many friends in his neighborhood, especially the children. He was like a grandpa to them in many ways. He also spent many hours in service to the widows in the neighborhood, mowing their lawns and clearing the snow for them in the winter.

Dad did not like sitting around with nothing to do, He eventually began serving in the Bishop’s Storehouse in Idaho Falls and greatly enjoyed his time there. He did grumble from time to time when he felt that the only person who could properly stock the shelves was himself. One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking the grandchildren to Yellowstone Bear World, south of Rexburg, Idaho. No matter how many times he went, he always loved watching the baby bears getting fed and learning to climb around. Frequently the trip to Bear World would be followed by a drive to Big Jud’s for a hamburger. Dad’s chief joy in his later years was definitely his grandchildren. He also had a special place in his heart for his great-nephew Bryce Cole, and loved him as much as his own grandchildren. For many years, he cooked the fried chicken at the Priest reunion, and everyone loved his family auction. He and his sister Carol were instrumental in connecting the scattered Priest relatives and keeping them close.

As Jim aged, he began to suffer from dementia and lived the last year-and-a-half at Tambree Meadows Assisted Living in Idaho Falls. We would like to thank the nurses and aides for their loving, tender care. They were more than caregivers--they truly loved him and made his last months more content and happy. We would also like to thank the staff at One Source Home Health and Hospice, for making Dad’s passing amore comfortable experience.

Jim will be buried in the Taylor, Idaho cemetery. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be a traditional funeral at this time. There will be a private family graveside service on Saturday, November 21st at 1:00 pm. Dress warmly, and bring a camp chair if you would like to sit down. We ask that you please wear a mask and respect social distancing guidelines.


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