James “Jim” Willey – UPDATED


A Celebration of Life with friends and family for 78-year old James “Jim” Willey of Whitney, NE, will be held June 25, 2023, from 2:00-4:00 at the Bethel Community Church south of Whitney.

Jim chose to be cremated and requested a private family burial in Crawford, NE. 

Memorials may be directed to the United Methodist Church of Chadron or the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department.

To sign the online guest book, go to

James A Willey was born March 18, 1944, to Don and Midge (Lee) Willey of Grand Island, NE, and passed away Nov 17, 2022, at Hilltop Estates in Gothenburg, NE, after a courageous battle of colon cancer.

As a child, Jim enjoyed spending time with his two brothers, younger sister, and their various species of pets, which included ducks, raccoons and skunks – descented, of course. 

Jim was known for his work ethic, attention to detail, and for completing a task thoroughly. He learned this skill at the age of 14 while working at Kelly’s Market in Grand Island.

He started as a sorter of potatoes and recycled Coke bottles in the back of the building, but advanced to managing in the front. 

He attended Grand Island Senior High, graduating in 1962, and attended UNL for one year – many years later admitting to his grandchildren that he enjoyed driving up and down “O” Street in Lincoln more than pursuing an education.

In 1966, he married Nancy Bainbridge and together raised two children, JD and Kandace, in Crawford, NE, where he was a manager of the local Jack and Jill grocery store. 

One day, the owner came in and said he was selling the store and wanted Jim to stay. Jim, like many people do when faced with a tough decision, went to the local bar to seek advice. 

This led him to make one of his proudest decisions – going to work for the BNSF railroad. He stayed there until retiring in 2003. 

In 1995, Jim married Mary Hartman and together the enjoyed traveling and watching the wildlife from the front window, until her health wouldn’t allow it. He cared for Mary and through this act of kindness, many realized his unlimited well of graciousness and unconditional love.

Jim will be remembered for his boundless amount of positivity, friendship, love of family, animals, patriotism and his appreciation for all those who cared for him. Not to mention, his beloved 1964 GTOs, “Silver” and “Gold,” which he enjoyed with his children and grandchildren.

Jim is survived by his son JD (Alyssa) Willey of Missouri City, TX, and their children McKenzie of Kalispell, MT, and Hayden of Missouri City, TX; his daughter Kandace Davis of Gothenburg and children Jaiden of Lincoln and Jonathan of Gothenburg, and his sister Candy Stuart of Grand Island, NE.

Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Hartman, parents Don and Midge, brothers Mike and Don, nephew David, and brother-in-law Richard Stuart.

The family would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to the staff of Hilltop Estates for the special care they provided to Jim, including the special treats, winks, and inside jokes that made him smile. 

Gratitude also to Chadron Home and Health and Hospice and Central Plains Home and Health and Hospice for coordinating his care.

Blase-Strauser Memorial Chapel of Gothenburg is in charge of arrangements for Jim Willey.

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