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Grinnell, James (Jim)

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James Eltinge Grinnell, a resident of Sonora, CA, passed away on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, following a heart attack. He was 84 years old. The family is deeply saddened by his death.

Jim was the son of the late Eltinge (Bud) and Margaret (Terpening) Grinnell. Raised in Torrance and Rolling Hills, CA, Jim was a Boy Scout who proudly attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Irvine, CA. He was a graduate of Redondo High School Class of 1957 and attended Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1962 on an Army ROTC scholarship. He was a proud member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and served as class treasurer during his time at Oregon State. He received a Master of Science in Industrial Administration from Purdue University in 1966 and a Master in Health Care Administration from Suffolk University in 2001. 

Jim’s career was diverse: he was a consultant for AT Kearney Management before opening a real estate firm, Scheer, Helmich & Grinnell, in Aspen, CO. Following Aspen, he started a private mortgage lending company and raised a family on the Central Coast of CA. 

Jim moved to Sonora, CA, in 2001. He proudly served the Sonora community in various capacities, including two separate stints on the Board of Directors of the Tuolumne Utilities District, first being elected in 2012. He resigned from the Board due to a medical injury in 2013 but returned in 2014 by winning another four-year seat. He was later tapped to be the Board president in 2016. After leaving the Board in 2021 he was appointed by then-Mayor Hawkins to serve on the city’s Planning Commission.

A lifelong Rotarian and a Paul Harris Fellow, Jim founded multiple Rotary Clubs, including the first Rotary Club in Aspen, CO, in 1971. Jim was also active in various volunteer capacities, including his service for the Tuolumne County Commission on Aging and the Area 12 Agency on Aging Advisory Council, as well as his efforts in co-founding the Tuolumne County Senior Expo, an annual event furnishing information to seniors, caregivers, and baby boomers on local caregiving options, insurance, medical screenings, veteran services and much more. Genealogy was another interest of Jim’s. In 1979, Jim was a Founding Father of the Grinnell Family Association of America. When Jim was 15, he built a ham radio antenna in his backyard in Rolling Hills, CA, and hosted a high-power radio transceiver in his bedroom. His call sign was K6ELP (Kathy 6 Elephants Love Peanuts) and he talked to people all around the world. Later in life, he also met some of his closest friends in the Sonora area through the local ham radio club. 

In his personal time, he was a gardener, often tending to his fruit trees and tomato plants. He was an avid reader of mystery and crime novels and was renowned for his creative ideas and sharp mind. 

Jim is survived by his sister, Kathleen (Grinnell) Asbury, and her husband, Wayne Asbury, formerly of Lompoc, CA, and currently Brighton, CO, his son, Jason Grinnell, and his wife, Laura (Felthous) Grinnell, of Pasadena, CA,  and his daughter, Jill (Grinnell) Abrahamsen, and her husband, Robert Abrahamsen, of Kennebunkport, ME, and his former wife, Andrea (Hunnell) DuPree, of Bend, OR. He was the cherished “Grandpa” of Lauren, Carter, Henry, and Clark (Kennebunkport) and Kate and Jake (Pasadena). Jim always enjoyed time with his family and took a keen interest in his grandchildren, grandnieces, and grandnephews.

Jim was happy to discuss any topic—business ideas, public policy, operations research, current events… he was interested in everything. He loved nothing more than feeling connected to others and being helpful. 

He took an earnest interest in his grandchildren’s involvement with robotics and theater, he got immense satisfaction from serving his community, and he absolutely relished his mornings having coffee with friends. In his honor, please make a donation to a local school’s theater or robotics program or invite a friend for coffee (his favorite place was McDonald’s), text your loved ones (something he did daily), or support Veterans Affairs with a donation. Spreading happiness and kindness to others is the greatest way to remember him. Services will be private.

  • Date of Death: 05/15/2024
  • Age: 84
  • Residence: Sonora, CA
  • Services: Join us as we pay tribute to his remarkable life. Aronos House June 23, 2024 at 2pm Please RSVP call or text. 209.770.4973