James Alan Kirkland, also known as "Griz" and "Jimmy Dean" to those who loved him, reached the summit of his longest and most adventurous hiking trail on Feb. 28, 2022.
Jim was born on July 15,1959, to Oswald D. and Violet Mae (Cohan) Kirkland in Elmhurst, Illinois.
Being a lover of the woods, Jim moved south and graduated from Southeastern Illinois College's Forestry program and later, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska, worked in all aspects of the field of forestry in western Kentucky and southern Illinois, taught forestry at SIC and later served as the interim director of the University of Illinois' Forest Resource Center at the Dixon Springs Ag Center.
He was a member of the Society of American Foresters, past chairman of the Illinois Society of American Foresters, past president of the Illinois Wood Products Association, and a member of the Walnut Council and the Illinois Walnut Council, among others.
Jim proudly kept up with research and training in the field he was so passionate about and helped local high school students with tree ID and leaf collection projects. There are trees growing all over Carrier Mills-Stonefort areas given to schoolchildren by Jim in honor of many Arbor Days.
As a member of The First United Methodist Church of Carrier Mills, Jim was lay leader and served on various committees; he was involved in all aspects of youth ministry, from Sunday school teacher to camp counselor. Jim often visited the local nursing home and was active with the Little Egypt Emmaus and Chrysalis communities. He also traveled to Africa for ministry.
It was not possible for Jim to spend too much time in the woods or backpacking and hiking. His adventures took him on many trails in the Northwest, Southwest, and Midwestern U.S. and Venezuela. His later years were spent hiking with the River-to-River Trail Society, and friend Ernie Brasher, outrunning Alzheimer's as his wife, the former Carla Nolen, took him on adventures by camper.
Jim was blessed with numerous family and friends. While he never met a stranger and his kind heart and quick smile endeared him to others, his greatest blessings were his children Calen (Kayla) Kirkland of Becker, Minnesota and Wyatt (Kayla) Kirkland of St. Charles, Missouri; and grandsons Greyson Jacob Kirkland and Tatum Nolen Kirkland of Minnesota.
Jim always made time to coach his sons' Khoury League baseball teams and loved chasing their basketball and baseball games, spending time hunting and watching University of Kentucky basketball together. He was their biggest fan and greatest role model.
He also became a father figure to and loved exchange sons Nacho (Antonia) Recarte of Spain, Benjamin Rumberg of Germany, Benjamin (Elisabeth) Kandt of Germany, and Rafael (Paige) Tesorero of Germany.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents.
In addition to being survived by his wife, sons, and grandsons, Jim is survived by sisters Jeri (Bob) Shaw of Villa Park, Illinois and Joanne Kirkland (Kevin Clark) of Madison, Wisconsin; sister- and brother-in-law Geri (Richard) Morgan of Carrier Mills; and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, 2022 in the First United Methodist Church, 109 E. Washington St. in Carrier Mills, with the Revs. Chris Wise, Victor Long, and Stan Irvin officiating. Burial will be in the Salem Cemetery.
Friends may call at the First United Methodist Church on Saturday after 9 a.m. The family suggests with gratitude that memorials be made to the Carrier Mills First United Methodist Church, in lieu of flowers.
Absher Nicholson Funeral Home in Carrier Mills is entrusted with the arrangements.