On May 18th, 2023, James B. (Jim) Saelens passed away peacefully at the age of 91 with family by his side. A veteran of the Korean War and a man of humble beginnings, Jim left behind a legacy of generosity and perseverance.
Jim was born on August 8, 1931 in St. Charles, Illinois to Charles and Mary Saelens. One of six children, he grew up in a family of hard workers during the Great Depression, an experience that instilled in him a sense of determination. In addition to being a resilient young man, Jim was a quiet and intelligent child—traits that would carry through his life, though his loved ones knew that beneath his quiet demeanor was a quick wit and a joke always at the ready.
As a young man, Jim worked at the iron foundry in town doing arduous labor. He was such an effective employee, that, much to his chagrin, the boss had him deferred from the draft because "he needed his best worker." But the following year in 1952, Jim was drafted into the Korean War, where he served with distinction and honor. When he returned home, he told his boss he was done with the foundry, because "he didn't want a job, he wanted a career." Jim went on to Marquette University on the G.I. Bill, and during one fateful summer back home, his brother introduced him to Phyllis Bowgren, the young woman who would become the love of his life. Jim and Phyllis hit it off, and in 1957 the two were married in St. Charles, Illinois.
The newlyweds couldn't wait to start their life together. In 1958, with a new baby, a new degree, and a new job at Boeing, Jim and Phyllis packed up the family and headed across the country to rainy Seattle. Jim worked his way up at the company, from electrical engineer to Director of Manufacturing Research and Development in Boeing’s electronic division. He was known for his work ethic and his ability to solve complex problems, earning him the respect and admiration of his colleagues.
By 1963, the family had grown in size (two boys and two girls), so Jim and Phyllis decided to buy a plot of land and build a house in south Seattle, a place they would call home for over 35 years. The kids enjoyed salmon fishing with their dad on Elliott Bay, camping trips to National Parks, and helping him work on the family home.
1987 brought the arrival of Jim's grandchild, an event that marked a new era in his life. Over the next 30 years, Jim would go on big family trips, whip up his famous barbecue and cinnamon rolls, and show his grandkids how to shuck oysters at the beach house. He traveled with Phyllis to China, Australia, Scandinavia and beyond. He attended graduations, birthday parties, and weddings. He treasured his gardening and his trips to Costco.
No matter where he was, Jim loved his family dearly, and was always there to support them in their endeavors. His service to his country was a source of pride for him throughout his life, and he was a devout member of Saint Anthony Catholic Church and later Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. He had a generous spirit and always had a joke on hand. He is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, four children, four grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. He will be missed by all who loved and knew him.
To send flowers
to the family or plant a tree
in memory of James B. Saelens, please visit our floral store.