Charlie Lee James, 81, passed away at his home near St. Ignatius, on Sept. 3, 2017.
Born in Hardin on Nov. 21, 1935, to Roy Franklin Sr. and Opal Elnora (Epperson) James, he attended school and worked in Hardin until his enlistment in the Army on his 17th birthday.
His military career spanned 23 years and included becoming the youngest staff sergeant in the 5th Infantry Division in Germany, graduating from Special Warfare School and receiving his Green Beret in 1963, three tours of duty in Vietnam, recruiter in Billings, and Motivation NCO for the state stationed in Helena. He retired as a highly decorated master sergeant in 1974.
He married Katie Rey Engles in 1959 and, after his military career, they owned and operated The ADIT, a shopper, in Helena until 1978 when they moved to St. Ignatius and bought a ranch. With the ranching downturn of the 1980s, he decided to diversify by returning to publishing. While operating The ADIT he had created a popular meet and greet column, therefore he envisioned a publication devoted to helping those who loved the Western lifestyle to find the love of their lives through advertising. So Sweetheart Magazine and Events was created, the ranch morphed into the Sweetheart Ranch, and he became Cowboy Cupid with the blue hat. He and his wife Katie “Cupcake” closed the company when their daughter and partner, Lise, died in 2004.
He helped create the Vietnam Memorial in Rose Park in Missoula and proudly took the Angel Statue Memorial on a flatbed to the Crow and Cheyenne reservations prior to its installation in the park.
He was a lifetime member of several military organizations including Special Forces Association Chapter 28, “The Devil’s Brigade Chapter.”
He is survived by his wife; son, Mark, of Butte; son-in-law, Rande Hall, of Los Fresnos, Texas; brothers, Jim (Connie) James of Hardin, Darrold (Darlene) Morrison of Forsyth, and Delmar (Concha) Morrison of Billings; sisters, Dorothy Brown of Kennewick, Washington, and Doris (Herb) Hollenbeck of Hardin; granddaughter and great-granddaughter, Kayla and Jessica Brueckmann of Polson; and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.
Cremation has taken place and a celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, at the Community Center in St. Ignatius.