James (Jim) M. Staker, 89, of Kansas City, passed away peacefully on March 27, 2013 surrounded by his family. The visitation will be at Mt. Moriah & Freeman Funeral Home, 10507 Holmes Rd., Kansas City, MO 64131 on Saturday, March 30, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. followed by a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. There will be a private burial with full military honors at the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas where he will be laid to rest with his wife, Helen.
Jim was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Fred and Blanche Staker. He was preceded in death in 2012 by his "bride" of 70 years Helen S. Staker and by his parents and his sister, Dorothy Smith
Jim attended Southwest High School and the University of Kansas where he joined Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He joined the U.S. Navy, and became an officer and a torpedo bomber pilot. His squadron was assigned to the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier. He saw heavy action in the Pacific during World War II. He was severely burned when his plane was hit during an enemy attack. He fought fires aboard the U.S.S. Wasp until someone noticed he was severely burned and hospitalized him. He spent a year in military hospitals recovering. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and received 3 service ribbons. His brush with death impacted the rest of his life. He was a very positive person with a wonderful sense of humor. In his last few years of life, he often reflected how lucky he was to have survived WWII and to have lived this long.
After WWII Jim and Helen moved to Kansas City where Jim joined Pacific Airmotive Corporation (PAC) as a technical salesman of aircraft parts to airlines. He later opened a branch in Denver, where Jim, Helen and their two sons lived for ten years. He enjoyed hiking and camping in the Rockies and being Scoutmaster of Troop 256 sponsored by Cherry Hills grade school. Jim and his family returned to Kansas City in the 1960s with PAC. Jim later purchased a Western Auto store in downtown North Kansas City that fulfilled his dream of one day owning a hardware store. Some years later he sold the store and joined Swan Engineering of Kansas City as a technical salesman. Prior to retiring from Swan he started J.M. Staker Company making small quantities of specialized metal and nylon repair parts for various regional manufacturing companies. He enjoyed "making parts" and did so until he was 85.
He was an excellent athlete. In high school, he was a star running back on the Southwest football team, in his 60s he canoed and jumped off rope swings into rivers with his sons and grandsons, and until he was 80 he played volleyball in a volleyball league.
He was devoted to his wife, Helen, and in their later years they enjoyed gardening and the simple pleasures of having coffee and donuts while bird watching in their back yard.
Jim is survived by his sons, Rodd (Martha) Staker and Rick (Jeanne) Staker; five grandchildren David (Christy) Staker, Daniel (Karen) Staker, Bridget Staker; Sandy (Greg) Knepper, Sara (Keith) Spisak; and twelve great grandchildren, all of Kansas City.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Boy Scouts of America (Heart of America Council), 10210 Holmes Rd., Kansas City, MO 64131 or KU Endowment - Alzheimer's Research Development Fund, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, mail stop 3012, Kansas City, KS 66160.