James Dominic Stefaniak, 68, Nov. 15, 1952 – Nov. 9, 2021.
Jim grew up in Chicago along with his older brother Jerry and younger sisters Judy and Jenny. Raised by parents who ran a business doing custom upholstery, Jim developed an eye for detail and skills working with his hands at a young age. He eventually completed a carpentry program in Chicago as the star graduate, and he would carry this skill and passion for building beautiful things with him for the rest of his life. From Chicago to Los Angeles to Seattle and Montana, Jim always had plenty of work – mostly through word of mouth. Many of his clients became close friends, which speaks volumes not only to the quality of his work but to his likeability. Jim had a humorous outlook on life that sometimes bordered on absurdity; he was a very fun person to be around. He was a loyal friend, generous to those he cared for, and an enthusiastic lover of life.
Jim really loved the outdoors and was quite an adventurer. He road-tripped through Mexico with his beloved dog Ranger, road his motorcycle to Alaska and backpacked in Hawaii. He ended up in Los Angeles where he found belonging in a community involved in new-age spirituality, where he made life-long friends and was the catalyst for his eventual move to Montana, which quickly became his favorite place.
In 1989 Jim married Elizabeth Rivard. They spent their early years in Seattle, where their children Jene’ and Joseph were born, and moved to Montana in 1993. They eventually divorced but maintained a friendship. Of all Jim’s joys in life, the greatest of all was raising his kids. Just like his father did for him, he instilled in his children the importance of taking pride in your craft and the value of work with integrity. He was a very enthusiastic father; he loved taking Jene’ and Joe on camping trips to Canada, taught them both how to fish at a young age, played baseball and other games with them in the field behind their house, made up goofy bedtime stories, and had a really great time helping them build intricate craft projects for school. He was a ridiculously talented guitar player and shared his love of music with them. He whole-heartedly supported Jene’ and Joe in all their interests and encouraged them to be their truest selves. During the last days of his life, he said his favorite thing in his whole life was raising his kids.
In August of 2021, Jim was diagnosed with metastatic cancer which took his life in a matter of a few short months. It was a surprise to him and everyone around him. His son Joe traveled from Tennessee to care for him during his last few months, which was a great comfort. His daughter, Jene’, was able to visit from her home in NY and spend some precious time with Jim before his passing. He is preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Jean. He’s survived by his daughter, Jene’ Marie and his son, Joseph James (Vineeta Velumani). He is also survived by his siblings Jerry (Patty Armstrong-Stefaniak), Judy Julian(Ted), Jenny Farran and several nieces and nephews. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, but his infectious enthusiasm for life will live on.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 5 at 2pm at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, MT