James Elmer Kortesmaki

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February 15, 1943 ~ July 31, 2021

James E. Kortesmaki, 78, Sioux Falls, SD, died Saturday, July 31, 2021, at his home.

Memorial Services will be 11:30am, Friday, August 6, 2021, at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, SD, with visitation beginning at 10:30am.  Burial will be at Racine, WI, later on.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials be made to Day Break (Adult Day Services) at The Center for Active Generations or Hospice Care at Avera Health in his memory.

James Elmer Kortesmaki was born February 15, 1943, in Mount Clements, MI, with a twin brother, John, to John and Tyne (Johnson) Kortesmaki, who were of Finish ancestry. He grew up in Superior, WI, and attended Vo-tech school for woodworking. He moved to Racine, WI, and married Phyllis Chase. To this union one child was born, Amy. He worked in the carpentry industry and in construction as a “finish carpenter.” Jim retired at the age of 58 and took up the hobby of wood carving. He moved to South Dakota in 2014 to be closer to his daughter, Amy, and her family.

Jim had many nicknames, because of his middle name Elmer, he was known as “Elm Tree,” which was later shortened to “Tree.” He was onery, but the more disgruntled he seemed, the more that you knew you were loved. One of his dear friends recently described Jim in this way, “Jim may have been a grump, but what a great grumpy friend. I did give it back to him, that’s why we were such good friends, little snicker and laugh. Such a friend. I had many great times at the store, him teaching classes. Jim would complain, but I knew that he would love it because that is all that he would talk about.”

He was a perfectionist, especially in his wood carvings. If one portion was flawed, he would discard the piece and start over completely. Many of his works have been sold as art treasures because of their profound beauty. One of his favorite lines was, “Well, you gotta have a sense of humor.”

James is survived by his four children, Lee (Holly) Draper, Beach Park, IL, Lynne Beers, Slayton, MN, Dale Kortesmaki, Wisconsin, and Amy (Steve) Willison, Sioux Falls; grandchildren, Dallas, Jeannie (Ryan), Shane, Amber (Bob), Zakary, Olivia, James (Kaylee), Joanna (Jacob), Julie (Nathanial), Abigail, David, Peter, Daniel, and Rebekah; multiple great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews; and all of his carving buddies.

James was preceded in death by his parents, John and Tyne (Johnson) Kortesmaki; siblings, a twin brother, John, Judy, Joanie, Bertha, and Saundra.

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  • The Demet Family says:

    Our prayers to Jim’s family, he was a great guy, yes, we agree he was a grump but not in the since you would think once you got to know him. Always seen a smile on his face after our little neighborly visits. I hope he is at peace and with his family members that went before him, he always spoke of how he missed them at time.

  • Pete & Janet Musselman Lot 68C U G Wis says:

    He was a great neighbor, always willing to help with a problem with a carpenter problem. He had a good sense of humor, and would make us laugh with his straight faced humor. We have missed him since he moved to S.D. to be closer to his daughter & her family. We will always remember him & the carved pieces he’d given to us as gifts. He was a very talented man. Such a pleasure to know him.

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