James “Jim” Wesley Oliver, 71
Jim passed away on Friday, April 29, 2022, at Sanford Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota with family by his side.
Visitation will be at Vertin-Munson Funeral Home in Wahpeton, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3rd, with a prayer service to follow. Funeral services will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Great Bend, ND at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4th, with visitation one hour prior, Pastor Brock Schmeling will officiate the service. Interment will be at Fairview Cemetery in Wahpeton. Dinner and fellowship will follow at the Wahpeton Community Center at 304 Fifth Street South. A live stream of the services will be available on his obituary page on the funeral homes website. Arrangements have been entrusted to Vertin-Munson Funeral Home.
Jim was born to Earl “Bud” Oliver and Albena “Beanie” Oliver (Machainis) on December 8, 1950, in Breckenridge, Minnesota. Jim played football and sang in a high school rock band, The Opposite Six. After graduating from Wahpeton Senior High School in 1968, Jim lived for a few months in California working construction and decided to return home to Wahpeton where he spent the rest of his life.
Jim began his career in Wahpeton as the youngest manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, where he met his future wife, Donelyn. Jim later opened his first business, an independent Papa John’s Pizza shop in Wahpeton and later in Detroit Lakes, MN. In 1974, Jim and Bud bought The Embassy, a fine dining restaurant on the fourth floor of what is now Town Center Square.
In 1975, Jim married Donelyn Prochnow and together they raised their three sons and collaborated on many business ventures over the next 46 years. Jim followed Bud into real estate, pursuing numerous developments over several decades in the city while serving on various boards.
In 1979, Jim opened River Valley Printing where he spent much of his time for the next twenty years. In 1989, Jim returned to his passion for restaurants, opening Ollie’s, a gourmet candy store and deli. Jim concluded his fulfilling career as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, retiring in 2011.
Throughout his entire life, Jim was committed to serving the community. In 1975, he was a charter member of the Wahpeton Optimist Club, starting an endowment that continues to support youth organizations today. Jim spent countless hours volunteering for Chahinkapa Zoo, serving on the Zoo Board of Directors for nearly forty years and was instrumental in opening the Prairie Rose Carousel, Grandpa’s Petting Zoo, and several fundraising initiatives that helped make the zoo we all treasure today.
Jim pursued several passions over the course of his life. On any weekend, Jim and Donelyn would be out antiquing in the countryside, the next they might be planting in their garden or heading to karaoke night. Jim’s love of music was shared each Christmas Eve when he sang O Holy Night at his home church, Trinity Lutheran in Great Bend. Jim enjoyed several fishing trips to Canada with friends, and he loved cooking and entertaining guests at his and Donelyn’s home. He was happiest surrounded by his grandkids.
Jim was an entrepreneur, visionary, and local historian, happy to share a story over coffee with friends. Preservation of history was an ongoing passion with an innovative spark, always eager to try something new.
Jim is survived by his wife, Donelyn; sons, Benjamin (Lucy Lehmann) Wahpeton, Gabriel (Elisabeth) Washington DC, and Joseph (Joelle) Chaska MN; grandchildren, Wesley, Christina, Patrick, Lucy, and Jonas; sister, Carol (Bill) Daniels; in-laws, Donald and Dorothy Prochnow, Bella Velazquez; and his dog, Ruby. Jim is preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Susan Oliver-Herbst.
The family thanks all friends and family who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers when it wasn’t possible to visit Jim during these last few years. Jim led a full, happy life.
In remembrance of Jim’s love for the zoo, the family asks that any charitable donations be made to the Chahinkapa Zoo at https://www.chahinkapazoo.org/donate.