Lifelong Foresthill resident, James R. Gonzales (Jim), passed away at home the morning of October 23, 2021. He was 95 years old.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years Wilma, sisters Carmen (Wilson) and Frances (Adams) and his parents. He is survived by his son Larry (Roberta), daughter Cheryl Nilsson (Ken), 5 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.
Jim was born on June 1, 1926 at the old Foresthill town site “under the hill” below present day Mosquito Ridge Road to James Lawrence (Cap) and Lena (Rondoni) Gonzales. Ancestors on his father’s side settled in Foresthill in 1852.
Jim attended Foresthill Elementary School and Placer High School (Class of 1944) where he played baseball, frequently hitchhiking home after practice. Some of the jobs Jim held while in and after high school were cutting firewood and working at Porter’s garage, as well as Matthews Chrome Mine where he earned $6.80 a day. He then began a long career with Hughes Brothers Lumber Company.
In October 1944, Jim was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII and served at Okinawa, Korea, and the Philippines rising through the ranks to Tech Sergeant. Jim was discharged from the army in October 1946 and went back to work for Hughes Brothers.
Jim married Wilma Ruth Garner on August 12, 1947 in Carson City, NV. In 1953 they built the home in Foresthill where they would raise their children and live the rest of their lives.
While working for Hughes Brothers, Jim operated a D-8 Cat and built many of the roads between Foresthill Divide and Elliot Ranch, including the Sugar Pine area. Many are still in use today. Jim ended his career with Hughes Brothers in 1968. He then began a second career with the Placer County Water Agency, retiring in 1988 as the Hydro Maintenance Supervisor.
Jim had many interests. He played guitar in the town orchestra and often accompanied family singers. His favorite songs were from WWI, taught to him by his Uncle Fidel. Jim enjoyed baseball, playing infield on the Foresthill team. He was an accomplished fly fisherman, sampling most of the Foresthill Divide streams but his favorite was Duncan Creek where he and Wilma often camped. He loved visiting with Foresthill’s “old timers” and was often called upon for information on Divide history. His memory was amazing.
Recently, as his role changed from being “the helper” to that of being helped, he often expressed his gratitude to his family and caregivers. The family would also like to extend their gratitude to those who helped during these last months, especially Hannah, Juan, Katherine, Sutter Hospice and Jim’s physicians, Dr. Qing Tang-Oxley and Dr. Jackson Wang whose wonderful care helped Jim to reach age 95.
Jim was a kindhearted man who would always stop at what he was doing in order to help anyone in need. He was very mechanical and could fabricate and fix anything. We often thought that he understood better than anyone else how the world is put together and how to take it apart. His generation has been called “the greatest generation” and he proved it by his life. The Foresthill Divide has definitely lost one of its true ‘nice guys’.
Per Jim’s wishes, there will be no memorial service. He will be buried in the Foresthill Community Cemetery next to Wilma. A graveside service for family will be held in the future.