Thomas C. James “Tom” AKA, “Coach James“ or “TJ “ went home to be with the Lord on June 18, joining his wife of 25 years, Nancy James. Tom was at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., surrounded by family and friends.
Tom is survived by his son Thomas James and spouse Cinda James, of Corrales, N.M., grandsons Darin James, of Golden, Colo., and Travis James of Corrales, N.M., and his son Todd James, of Edwards, Colo. He is also survived by his first wife Judith James, of Green Valley, Ariz. (formerly Pagosa Springs), his niece Susan Foley and nephew Jim Mappin, stepdaughter Kathy Nehrenz and husband Pastor David and their children, Stephen Nehrenz, Michelle Nehrenz, Kurt Nehrenz and wife Kaitlin, Mark Nehrenz and wife Laura, and great grandchildren Corrie and Bea Nehrenz. Stepdaughter Kimberly Knippa and her children Matthew Medina, wife Tiffani, and great grandson Noah, grandson Justin Jenkins and granddaughter Faith Jenkins.
Tom’s journey began on Nov. 4, 1936, in the small mining town of Bisbee, Ariz. He graduated from Clear Creek High School in 1954 in Idaho Springs, Colo. Shortly thereafter Tom joined the Navy, serving through 1956, and later attending college at Western State and Fort Lewis in 1959. It was in Durango where he met and married his first wife, Judith Decker. Lastly he transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder, graduating in 1963.
Tom went on to teach history and coach football at Bayfield High School, leading them to their first state football championship playoff game in school history. “Coach James,” or “TJ,” was a fixture at Durango High School from fall 1968 through the spring of 1980. In his tenure he coached track, cross-country and football, with great success in the classroom and with his athletic teams.
Among his favorite achievements was his summer career on the Durango Silverton train, working for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. In his 12-year tenure he successfully held every position from brakeman to engineer, all the while coaching and teaching full time.
Late summer 1980, Tom and his family relocated to Pagosa Springs. Shortly after, he went to work in Dulce, N.M. as the special education director, teacher, head football, track and basketball coach for several years before retiring as the principal of the high school in 1998.
In 1990, Tom met Nancy Malone, of Pagosa Springs, and they married in March of 1991. Tom without hesitation stepped in, gaining two daughters and quickly embraced being grandpa.
Tom loved sharing his tales, though some may say they were at times exaggerated. He thoroughly enjoyed the smiles they brought to all who listened, and we can’t forget his infamous joke telling that kept everyone on their toes and laughing.
Looking back, we remember a man with passion and desire to help others reach their full potential. Tom lived a vibrant life, touching all who crossed his path, with a heart that always had room for more. He truly had a positive impact on everyone, leaving a heart print on all who knew him.
How does one honor and remember someone so special? Not only was he a man of honor who lived a life of integrity and gave fully of his heart, Tom was an amazing dad, husband, grandpa, teacher and coach. It was obvious by the life he lived, the way he shared his heart, and that his faith in Christ shined through.
Tom left a legacy of love. He was our hero, and as with any hero, when asked, he shared. He wanted everyone to know how blessed and thankful he was by his family, friends, co-workers, students and that he loved everyone very much
A memorial service will be held in Idaho Springs later this summer.