KALISPELL — James Howard Oury died peacefully in Kalispell on June 23, 2019, at the age of 80. He is survived by his children, Jeremy, Daniel, Alet and Jacques; and siblings Scott, Bob, Lon, Jean and Bruce. He is preceded in death by brothers Wendell and Bill.
Jim was a father, a husband, and a brother. He was also a physician, an athlete, and a cowboy.
Born on Oct. 14, 1938, in Geneva, Illinois, to parents Alice and John Foster Oury, Jim grew up nearby in Wheaton. The third of eight kids, he always showed great care for his brothers and sister, and decided early on to become a physician. Upon graduating from Wheaton College in 1960, Jim and his new bride, Marguerite Biscaye, moved to Houston, so that he could attend Baylor Medical School. Over the course of more than 40 years of marriage (they eventually divorced in 2003), Jim and Peggie moved from Texas to California to Montana, explored the world, and welcomed four children and 14 grandchildren along the way. It was a life journey he liked to call “high adventure.”
Jim served in the U.S. Navy, first in the ROTC, through medical school, then in Vietnam on the hospital ship the USS Repose, reaching the rank of commander. Soon after, he began studying under the first pioneers of cardiac surgery, in Paris and San Francisco; he would eventually become one of the most accomplished heart surgeons in the country. In the 1980s he established a practice in San Diego, California, where he became a leader in the field of heart valve repair. In 1989, Jim moved to Missoula, where he co-founded the International Heart Institute of Montana.
An avid athlete, Jim started as a 96-lb. high school wrestler, and later excelled at long distance running and triathlons well into his late 70s. He took up jogging as a medical student, and went on to compete in over 50 marathons and multisport events around the world, from the Hawaii Ironman to his last Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon just a few years ago. Jim pursued athletics with passion and vigor his entire life.
But his true passion was horses. He raised prize-winning quarter horses, trained and raced Arabians in 100-mile endurance events, and built a life around his love for their beauty and grace.
Jim’s family was especially fortunate to spend time with him during his travels over the last two months of his life. He visited Alet and Andy Taylor and their children in New York City; he ran on the beach with Dan and Lauren and their kids in San Diego; he watched horse shows in North Carolina with Jacques and Kristine and their family; and he rode through Glacier National Park with Jeremy and Jodi. During these months they were all reminded of his generous and optimistic nature, his sense of adventure, and his distinctly romantic view of life. Over the years, he had introduced them to a world of travel, people, beauty, and experience. In the words of one of his kids, Jim was “up for anything and everything … the more dangerous or distant, the better.” Contrasting this spirit was his gentle manner — as a physician or as a friend, he always knew how to make you feel comfortable, an instinct that came from a genuine compassion for others.
There will be a service on Sunday, July 14 at 5 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Montana. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Hospice Center at Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation: krh.org/foundation/make a donation. The family would like to thank the skilled caregivers there, in addition to the staff and caregivers at Columbia Falls Veteran’s Home, for their compassion, professionalism and dedication. The family would especially like to thank Dr. Kenny McFadden of Whitefish for his compassion, expertise and generous spirit. Friends are encouraged to visit our website at buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolences for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory caring for the family.