Heaven’s gardens will be even more glorious now that Jim Burtschi has entered their gates. James “Jim” Wayne Burtschi was called home Sunday, January 26, 2020, with his beloved family and pastor by his side. A Rosary Service will be Thursday, January 30, 7 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church, 711 North Country Club followed by the Funeral Mass of Burial on Friday, January 31 10 a.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church. Strode Funeral Home and Cremation is handling arrangements.
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Jim was born in Elk City, Oklahoma on April 13, 1939, to William T. and Georgia Grace (Krumm) Burtschi. The family lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and Oklahoma City before settling in Stillwater in 1955 where Jim graduated from Stillwater High School in 1957.
Jim’s knack for growing things began at an early age. When he was six, he planted an avocado seed next to the stairs in the backyard of his parent’s home in Fort Worth, Texas. When his mom walked out the back door and saw this funny looking plant, Jim “fessed up” that it was his avocado seed.
In high school, Jim always had a waiting list for his summer lawn service. He was endeared by his customers because, more than the usual lawn moving and edging, he would meticulously weed and cultivate their flower beds. His love of plants was nurtured while working for Inciardi’s Greenhouse in high school. It was the beginning of a life-long passion for horticulture. After high school he attended Oklahoma State University where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Originally enrolled in pre-med, his love of the “good earth” took over. He graduated from OSU in 1961 with a degree in Horticulture adding Business Law, Accounting and other business-related courses. He was a shrewd businessman in the making.
Upon graduation from OSU, Jim attended Cliff Mann Floral Design School in Denver and the FTD’s School of Management. In July, 1962, he founded Colonial Florist with a $10,000 loan from his dad. He rented a store space on Washington Street and eventually bought this property and the property next door formerly McCaffree’s Drugstore and expanded his original shop. In the beginning, he was the owner, designer, bookkeeper, delivery man and salesman all at the same time with the “Lord leading the way.” At the time,his sister, Betty, was his first and only employee. Until closing in 2014, Colonial Florist remained the premier florist in Stillwater for over 52 years.
Known for his level head, work ethic, and logical thinking, Jim became involved in city government serving on the Stillwater Planning Commission Chair of the Charter Review Committee and two terms on City Council. Along with Mayor Bill Thomas, he was instrumental in obtaining the land to relocate and build the new Stillwater Regional Hospital. Skilled in the art of compromise, Jim was smart, detailed and always ready to fight for what he believed in. His opinion was always measured and respected and he would often voice his concerns and logic in letters to the editor.
Jim continued to use his leadership skills through active participation in numerous professional and community associations and organizations. He served on the state and national boards of FTD and served as president of the Oklahoma State Florist Association. In 1985, he was inducted into the Oklahoma State Florist Association Hall of Fame. Jim also served for several years on the Payne County Tax Oversight/Advisory committee, Chair of the St. Francis Parish Council, and was a long-standing member the St. Francis Finance Committee.
Jim is survived by a family who loved him dearly, including his best friend and confidant, sister, Betty Townsend and her husband Bud of Stillwater; nephew, Will Townsend and wife, Erica and their children Alice and Eddie of Oklahoma City; and his nephew, Linc Townsend of Oklahoma City.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Robert (Bob) William Burtschi.
Jim will be fondly remembered as having been a good honest man, a valued mentor, a loving and caring brother and uncle, and a dedicated caretaker of his family. He will be dearly missed.
In Jim’s memory, donations may be sent to St. Francis Xavier, 711 Country Club Road, Stillwater, 74074, where a special fund is being established for the purchase of a memorial statue or to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place Memphis, TN 38105 USA / firstname.lastname@example.org