Posted by Peggy (+27) 15 years ago
Our precious beloved son and brother, James Edward Van Ham, age 30 of Miles City passed away Thursday, February 28, 2008.

Jimmy was born on August 19, 1977, he lived every day to its fullest. His childhood was filled with working, hunting, and fishing with his brother and father. His high school years filled with Custer County High School Track and FFA activities. After graduating in 1996, he went on to Wahpeton ND where he completed two years in the Diesel Mechanics Program. He spent the next 10 years working as a Technician on a Seismographic ship that explored the oceans for oil. He also worked many feed lots and for the Miles City Livestock Sales Barn, and bartended at the Bison Bar. His close friends, of whom there are too many to count, knew him as Jimmy. Jimmy was someone you could always count on to lend a helping hand when needed and expected nothing in return. He loved horses, working on several of the local and surrounding area ranches, and most of all his close friends and family.

He was preceded in Death by his father, William Frederick Van Ham. He is survived by his mother, Mary Van Ham, his sisters Lynn (Joe) Rogers of Bozeman MT, Martie (Gary) Lawson of Miles City, Ida Van Ham (Cliff) of Miles City, Shirley Van Ham (Michael) of Sioux Falls, SD a brother, Joe Van Ham of Fort Bragg, NC; and Missy Van Ham of Sioux Falls, SD. He had many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his second family, Randy, Cindy, Buck, and Casey Olson of South Dakota.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2008 at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Miles City with the family receiving friends from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Funeral Services will be held on Monday, March 3, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Miles City. Interment will follow in the family lot of the Custer County Cemetery. Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home of Miles City is in charge of the arrangements.

If desired, flowers and gifts may be addressed to the family members at 602 South Stacy, Miles City, MT 59301. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.

Jimmy, you will be missed.
Posted by Bob L. (+5094) 15 years ago
RIP, Jimmy.

You will indeed be missed.
Posted by Brandy Leischner (+165) 15 years ago
We'll miss ya Jimmy.

Posted by Kory D. (+12) 15 years ago
Jimmy once told me a story about when he was working on the seismographic ships. They were in the middle of a very strong storm with gale force winds and rough seas. They recieved a mayday from a neighboring smaller vessel that someone on board was having a heart attack. Jimmy and a few of his coworkers volunteered to take a skif to the boat and try to help. The captain said if they went, they were doing it on their own, if they capsized there would be no one to help them. They went any way, made it to the other boat and did what they could, unfortunately the person suffered a massive heart attack and died.
That's what kind of person Jimmy was. He always put the needs of others before his own. I have never met anyone so well liked by so many. He was always quick with a joke when one was needed, yet never turned his shoulder away from any one that needed to lean on it.
Jimmy you will be greatly missed.
Kory Draper
Posted by Tamara Beardsley-Choat (+11) 15 years ago
I am so sad to hear that my friend Jimmy is gone. He will be missed by so many people.

I consider myself lucky enough to be a part of the group email that Jimmy sent his colorful story to about his medical rescue trip during a hurricane, that Kory mentioned earlier. There are very select emails that I save because I think they are worth reading again and again. This is one of them. I found it in my archives from 2002. I don't think Jimmy would mind me sharing.

It's worth reading, for many reasons. It showcases Jimmy's humor, humbleness and hot-rod sides, as well as the fact that one of his hidden talents was his storytelling and writing (punctuation and spelling notwithstanding! .

I'll miss you lots Jimmy. Thanks for being my friend.

(original email from Jimmy Van Ham on Friday, September 27, 2002)

To all,

I appologize for making this a bulk email, but this is a story that I feel that I have to share because of the impact that it had on me. Every now and then in ones life, you have the opportunity to make a difference in someones life, and I got that oppurtunity, the oppurtunity to decide if a human life was gonna be lost, and for that, I will always remeber Hurricane Isisdor and September 23rd, 2002.

Earlier on that week we heard reports of an individual missing on another one of our vessels called the Geco Triton. They happened to be up in the North Sea at the time, and if any of you know anything about cold water survival, you'll know that in cold weather, you have a max of 2-3 minutes before hypothermia sets in. That don't mean your dead, yet, but your chances are slim. Here in the gulf you have maybe an hour or two, if the sharks don't get to you first. Now I don't mean to mislead you in what I experienced, but it added to some of the trauma. They never found they poor frenchman, and it's rumored that it was a suicide, since it's been know to happen in this company, this isn't exactly a job for everybody. Along with that, more reports came in of folks loosing fingers and limbs, you know, small things like that. Just kidding, well it's been quite a week, and just when we thought everything was settleing down, here comes Isidor straight for us. Now some of this I've told already to some of you before I decided to tell this story. We didn't pick up all our gear until the very last minute and then turned tail towards Fourchon, Louisiana, but hell be known, Isisdor had the same course, but the big shots in the office didn't think so while they were drinking coffee in they're safe warm homes. Sometimes hard decisions are easy to make as long as your not the one who has to deal with the consequences. We finially got the word to head towards Galveston, by then waves were crashing over the boat and most of the crew were stuck in they're bathrooms praying to the porcelin god(puking for those of you who don't know the luingo) I was off shift and actually enjoying myself. I was having a blast. I went up to the bridge to talk to the captain and was jokeing at how it was a nice day for a small boat run. We have a smaller boat we can launch off of the mother vessel for a man over board or just a personnel transfer. He just said yea right, and not a chance in hell can you launch in this weather. I got bored and headed to the day room to watch "Dogma". Not a bad show, but I didn't get to finish it, the medic was called up to the bridge and 5 mintues later I was called up after him. All I could think about was how much trouble I got myself into now, and who the son-of-a-bitch was that ratted on me. Another story, tell ya later. Once I stumbled my way up the stairs, the captain informed me that the engineer was having a heart attack on the Geco Dolphin, one of our recording vessels and if the medic don't get over there, chances are that he may die. It was up to me, yes, I'm not kidding, and maybe bragging a little, but it was up to me weather or not I felt like I could launch this boat and run the Medic to the Dolphin to save the mans life. I've been on the boat longer than anybody on here, and usually am the one to drive the frc(fast rescue baot). It's a situation that sometimes people dream about while cutting hay, or sitting in their office or where ever, but not really knowing what they would do if the situation ever arose. I myself am a victim of the "Hero" daydreams, and now I have the oppurtunity to do something that I am sure anybody else would have done in these circumstances. I looked at the medic and asked him if he was comfortable transfering in the weather. He finially had a chance to prove himself of his paycheck so he had no problems, and all I had to do was convince 2 more people to go with to do the painter line and the davit hook. Billy Brideson another mechanic from Gaingsville, Florida, and Billy Come, another, well, he trys to be a mechanic, from scotland, no offense Rob. It was time to rock and roll, while doing all my prelim checks and loading up the defib and other medical supplies, the Dolphin and Marlin were heading closer. Chief lowered us down while the waves pounded at the bottom of the boat, all of us hanging on tight with white knuckles. Full throttle ahead, and we're off. Only being able to run about 20 knots without the wind flipping us over gave the waves all the oppurtunity to smash into our faces. 5 minutes later, with a half-way decent lee-way, I pull up to the Dolphin and the fastess personnel and equipment transfer happened that I have ever seen. From then on, we were in the dark not knowing what the status was of the engineer. While the medic pumped him full of morphine and everything else he had, we stood by getting our asses kicked by 15 foot waves. I think the adrenaline in just one of us could have brought a grave yard to life. It was awesome. We were out there for an hour, waiting to see if we needed to load the patient onto our boat and take him to a rig to get medivacked off. The decision was made to keep him on the dolphin and they would take him off with a crane by a near by rig. We were damn lucky that all of this happened where they're were a few rigs around. The crazy thing is that all the rigs were evacuating due to Isisdor, and here I am with 2 other bunch of dumb mechanics in an 18ft boat, fighting 15 foot waves. Were were told we were the stupidest and craziest mother !@$#$@#$% alive, which made the adrenaline pump that much harder. With the whole gulf of mexico being evacuted, there was a chopper available to get the patient to shore to be hospitalized. We finially got the go ahead to head back to the mother vessel and we did. When your getting about 20 gallons of saltwater slapping you in the face every 20 seconds, it makes it hard to see. Just take a glass of water and put a table spoon of salt in it, and splash it in your eyes, it sucks. Today we finially got the word that the man lived, thanks to the medic being there. It wasn me that saved this guys life, it was us and knowing that even with the dangers involved we never thought twice about doing what we had to do to save this guys life makes me proud to work with the people I work with. This isn't something that's gonna be on any front page news due to the oil company's not wanting anybody to know what really goes on out here, but it's front page news in my head and it's something I wanted to tell somebody, so if you made it this far, thanks for listening and letting me have my moment.

Jim Van Ham
Handling specialist
Geco Marlin
Posted by Tamara Beardsley-Choat (+11) 15 years ago
Here is a second email I found, that I had saved from Jimmy. His emails were always so funny, they were worth saving.

This includes my original e-mail mentioning a bucking barrel. And then, his reply ... also mentioning a bucking barrel. I still claim innocent to this poor guy's injuries!

Again Jimmy, hope you don't mind me sharing. I don't think you would.


(Original e-mail from me to Jimmy, July 2, 2001)
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re:
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 22:15:51 +0000

Jim E,

Hey you...Happy 4th to you too! Are you out on the ocean again? You're a hard guy to keep track of! I'm hoping to go to a rodeo somewhere around here. If you're in the middle of the big, deep, dark waters, you probably won't be going to any rodeos! Maybe you should put on one of your own! Oil barrels/bucking can do it!

Your friend,


(Reply from Jimmy, July 16, 2001)

Not Funny
From: Jim E ([email protected])
You may not know this sender. Mark as safe | Mark as unsafe
Sent:Mon 7/16/01 7:40 AM
To: [email protected]

As of this day on forward I will never listen to you again. Oh man, where to start. It all began somewhere's around the 4th after your letter, which I well appreciate. Makes feel that I'm not completely way from society out here. Anyway, the actual idea had been in my head on my last trip that happened to end right before the BHS where I decided to give this "Bull Riding" a try. Well I decided to hit the waits and do alot of cardio and such so I could do decant. Well I didn't quite make it, but it was close. Well this trip this idea was floating around in my head, and after your letter about the barrels, it set it in motion. With that I think I can say that it's YOUR fault. As I may have told you before, out deck hands are filipinos, and they for some reason call me the last cowboy. Well what the hell, just go with the flow. I rigged up this barrel and let me tell you, it was quite a configuration. Took two days to build. OK, time for a test. Well, I needed some operators. First team member: Doug Langager, farm kid from Sisseton SD. 6'8", 230lbs.Second team member: Dean Drover, Ex boxer form New Foundland, 5'11", 195lbs. On stand by: Either me (Geees, enough said there), or Captain Jerry, 5'9", 220lbs, used to be able to bench 410lbs. These boys weren't playing around. It was all going well, I held the record of course. Sorry, gotta indulge a little. Well, the deck hands start coming around and watching. Next thing you now, there getting on. We took it easy on them untill they started joking around about how easy it was. Well, that's about when we all for took a corner and with a wink of and eye and a jerk of the arms we sent that poor little fillipino flying in the air and hitting a piller about 10 or 15 feet from us. He ended up with a few cuts and bruises. We tried like hell to help him up, but we were laughing so damn hard we couldn't get up ourselves. Boy the really pissed him off. A big deal was made of it at the next safety meeting, and just yesterday, I retired the first and hopefully not last in sea rodeo bull (HURRICANE). Kinda fit the occasion. That Combined with the flares and smoke bombs me and Doug set off on the back deck that caught the coast gaurds attention, has got me to realize that damn, I love my job. Well, I better get going now. I figured I'd just share with you the never ending saga of how much other peoples ideas and anothers ambition can cause so much chaos. Tune in tommorrow when boredom, really long ropes, and a twenty dollar bill burst the ego of a trainee. Untill then, you have yourself a wonderful day. Rethinking the "your friend" part

Posted by Martie Lawson (+9) 15 years ago
Thank you for sharing these e-mails from our Jimmy.
Posted by K. D. (+371) 15 years ago
I had known Jimmy for several years, and this is one story I like to tell about him.

I had an apartment by Washington Middle School that used to be a house. The girls downstairs were throwing a party, and I had to be up at 5:00 in the morning (on a Saturday ) for work. Anyway, I wake up about 2:30 in the morning hearing a thump...thump thump thump, thump...thump thump thump on the roof of this house. This goes on for about 2 minutes before I look out the window. Here is Jimmy, standing on the lawn with only one boot on, throwing his other boot on the roof. I yell down, "Jimmy, what the h#ll do you think your doing?" He says "Hey, I didn't know you lived up there. Sorry, I just wanted to see if I could get my boot stuck up on the roof." I just laughed, and went back to bed.

Every time I saw him after that, he always apologized for waking me up. I kept telling him, it was worth the shock on his face after he seen me peering out the window at him.

No matter how bad your day was, he could always put a smile on your face.

RIP Jimmy
Posted by Jon Bonine (+158) 15 years ago

Jimmy and I spent lots of time driving toy cars in the dirt and causing general chaos. He will be missed.

My condolenscences to his family

Posted by TK (+1622) 15 years ago
You will be missed by so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Also, Jimmy--don't cause too much chaos up there!
TJ and Tana Kiel
Posted by Sharon Clarke (+74) 15 years ago
I too, got the emails from Jimmy while he was on the seismograph ship. When they would port somewhere he would send me all sorts of pictures and emails. He and I chatted while he was out on the ship as well. He would say "keep my company, the guys are all cranky and driving me nuts", so we would chat for as long as he could then he would go off to his work duties again. I will miss him dearly. He was such a wonderful person. And that never knew whether to smile back or run because he was plotting something. He was so funny.

I will never forget you Jimmy! I will forever keep the beautiful earrings you gave me for my birthday close to my heart, and remember the good times we had.
Posted by Billie Dingfelder (BJ) (+15) 15 years ago
As a person travels through life with anticipation that in the end they will reach the point of enlightenment, do we really know if at when that time comes that you can honestly say that you've done everything that you've wanted, learned as much as possible or have loved with all of your heart? If it happened tomarrow, would you be ready? Satisfied with the life that you have lived? These thoughts race through my mind as I think about Jimmy Van Ham. The old cliche "The Good Die Young"...well yes, I believe that is true, he was a model of truth and morality. As I look back on the memories I have shared with Jimmy...I smile, what a character! Almost every morning he would give me a ride to school and of course I was always running late, but Jimmy was always there waiting with a smile! Whenever I was having a bad day or even a highschool girl crisis, Jimmy was always there to listen and make me laugh. Jimmy was a good man, and most of all a great friend. I will miss him dearly & think of him often. Rest In Peace Jimmy Van Ham -- CHEERS!