James Donald Proffitt Jr., a mountain man born a century behind his time, cheated the bears for the last time with his death at age 62 on the Powell flat.
Jim was born Nov. 29, 1947, in Livingston, Mont., to James and Carmie Proffitt. He spent his boyhood years slaying gophers and picking hay bales in the Paradise Valley that inspired his love for the outdoors.
After graduating in 1965 from Park County High School, Jim enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. He worked for many years as a butcher, oil-field hand and most recently in cement construction.
His hands were strong and always busy on his jobs in the Powell valley, but Jim’s heart never came down from the mountains. Heading up a steep, craggy trail on his horse with the sun ahead of him and a bear on his tail – that’s where Jim really lived.
His last summer, spent clearing trails on the North Fork, took him as close as he thought he could get to paradise. Wading through black ash and soot, he removed downed timber and graded trails destroyed by the 2008 Gunbarrel Fire. His last season on the mountain will clear the way for others who find their passion on the high trails.
Jim is survived by his wife, Susan; daughter Linette Hessenthaler and her husband Kelly, and their children Doug and Hannah, all of Boise, Idaho; and son Dan Proffitt and his wife Kyla, and their children Rayvan and Delia, of Billings. Also surviving him are his father, sister Cindy Ridgeway (Pete) of Missoula, Mont., and brother Tim Proffitt (Nickie) of Powell; and several nieces and nephews.
A gathering for Jim’s friends and family will be at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28, at Jim’s home, 547 Road 9. Bear scares, hunting adventures and ornery ol’ grouch stories will be shared.