Cover photo for Richard James Westermann's Obituary
Richard James Westermann Profile Photo
1943 Richard 2022

Richard James Westermann

March 19, 1943 — April 29, 2022

Bellingham, WA


Richard James Westermann, known as Jim, of Bellingham, Washington, passed away on Friday, April 29, 2022, at the age of 79. After several months of battling esophageal cancer, Jim died peacefully with his beloved wife Jan and his brother Bill by his side. 

Jim was born in Compton, California, on March 19, 1943, to Richard Henry and Bessie Belle (McGregor) Westermann. The oldest of three sons, Jim grew up in Compton, California, graduating from Compton High School in 1961 before attending college. During his young adult years, he worked as a machinist. His work ethic and desire to take care of his family led to his working in the optical field, all the way from creating contact lenses and glasses to becoming a licensed dispensing optician. His career in optics spanned from 1969 to his retirement from Costco Optical at the end of 2013.

In December of 1967, Jim met Jan at his parents’ home when she came from Iowa over her Christmas vacation to work for his dad’s Santa business.  Immediately smitten, they dated solidly for two weeks, and then he proposed as she returned home to the Midwest to continue her college.  What a shock it was to her parents! He came to their home in Iowa to meet her family bearing an engagement ring over Valentine’s Day weekend. Jim then returned to California for a few weeks until flying back to Iowa for an April 27, 1968, wedding. And that was 54 years ago!

In 1970, their first daughter, Jaimi Brooke, was born and their family began.  It was rounded out with two more daughters, Natalya Janelle and Irina Joy.

Jim and Jan moved to several places over the years of their marriage, and Jim was active in the communities where they lived. He always loved being involved in his church activities, particularly with the youth groups.  Jim was also an active in Kiwanis and served as Kiwanis president plus president of other local community organizations. During their years in Des Moines, Iowa, he was blessed to drive an old school bus carrying the high school “Gospel Team” around the state to put on musical presentations for their large church. Jim was the bus “dad” while Jan was the “mom” as they were the adults in charge on the road every weekend during much of the school year.

While they lived in Texas, he and Jan jointly volunteered with “Youth For Understanding,” an exchange program for high school students to spend a year studying abroad. They both hosted and placed many exchange students from around the world and loved having the privilege of doing it. They saw it as a way to become multiculturally involved, providing an outlet for their love of various peoples. They both had a wonderful time with the entire program. Getting emotionally close to their students, they especially remained family with Topi Paananen from Finland, and frequently were blessed with many visits together both in the USA and Finland. They were family.

Jim had great love for all people.  Always unselfish and kind, he never met a stranger.  Hospitality was flowing in his veins and hosting family and friends came naturally to the couple. His ready smile and hearty laugh came easily as he enjoyed living. Everyone knew his unique laugh, and everyone was welcome at his table.

Travel was always an enjoyable experience for Jim.  He loved nothing more than taking Jan on an adventure, whether it was in the same town as they lived, camping near or far, flying across an ocean to Europe, or cruising to Alaska.  As long as they were together, they enjoyed exploring life. What always made it best for him, however, was if a beach was involved.  He lived for his beaches. Walking barefoot in the sand, wading in the water washing over his feet, or sitting near the shore, he tanned easily without burning and could stay there for hours. A good swimmer, in his younger years he liked to surf. The ocean and the beach were his escape, and the couple traveled to beaches as often as possible.

Upon retirement, Jim and Jan began traveling the United States in a pickup pulling a new camping trailer. Driving over mountains, across deserts, through small towns, past waving cornfields, or alongside seashores, it was a time of great adventures for them, meeting many new friends, visiting family, and finding beaches. They had hoped to spend many more years in this blissful state!

They also were blessed with many trips to Europe visiting friends and sightseeing, a flight to Oahu and Waikiki celebrating his brother Bill’s birthday, a cruise to Alaska honoring in-laws Keri and Kent’s anniversary, and a couple of long train trips joining family.  Only the desire to be with family and friends could interrupt their travels.

Jim was quite the landscaper and enjoyed creating a sanctuary of nature in his backyard. He was especially proud of the large retaining wall he built in the last  few years. Shopping for flowers was almost an addiction of his.  There was always room for another flower or plant in the back yard. It was a place for him to relax plus a place to offer friends and family opportunity to rejuvenate and socialize. He spent many hours “working” in his yard, and then sitting and enjoying it—whether with friends, Jan, or alone. The landscaping was his passion and sharing it with others brought him deep satisfaction.

Jim loved his family fiercely, especially his wife Jan. No one could have loved her more or better.  She was the one with the health problems, not him, through the years, and he unselfishly loved and took care of her with nary a complaint. Together nearly all of the time in retirement, the two of them talked continually about everything, enjoying their coffee and tea for hours.  Yes, coffee was another of Jim’s loves. His coffee makers and latte machines were used daily.  Coffee and donuts might have made up his DNA. To know Jim meant he would be sipping a cup of coffee and offering you one.

Jan was always the main love of his life, but his daughters and grandchildren ran a close second. He was always proud of them, holding them dear to his heart.  A conversation with a daughter was a cause for a cup of coffee and swelling pride in her. His grandchildren brought him great joy, and he could not get enough of them.  A grandchild’s hug, hand tucked in his, silly faces made together, drawing, phone call, or visit with much conversation was always the highlight of his day. He loved telling all four of his grandchildren stories of his past. Jim’s grandchildren rejuvenated him. They were everything to him.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents and by his in-laws (Dale and Helen Bard) who were a second set of parents to him and by his younger brother, George Arthur Westermann. He is survived by his wife Jan; daughters Jaimi Brooke, Natalya “Jani” Snell (Zach), and Joy Westermann (Anthony Bailey); grandchildren James Munro-Westermann (Shannen), Sarah Hartzell-Westermann, Katya Snell, and Dmitry Snell; brother William “Bill” (and wife Teresa); and son-in-his-heart, Topi Paananen (Marika). His siblings-in-law were more like siblings: Julee Harter Lloyd (Doug), Keri Noel (Kent), and Jack Robnett (Judy).  It is sad to only list by title his nieces, nephews, great nephews, great nieces, and all in-laws because he loved them deeply. After 54 years in the family, he was attached to everyone.  He would offer big hugs to each precious person.

A private graveside service honoring his life was held for Jim on May 4, 2022, at Enterprise Cemetery in Ferndale, Washington.

A memorial celebration of his life will be held May 21, 2022, at 1:00 PM at Northlake Community Church at 1471 McLeod Rd., Bellingham, WA. All are invited to attend.




To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard James Westermann, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Starts at 1:00 pm (Pacific time)

Northlake Community Church

1471 McLeod Rd, Bellingham, WA 98226

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