James Nies Briggs

August 30, 1943 - June 16, 2021

James Nies Briggs, 77, of Ellensburg, Washington passed away at his home on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Join us for a memorial service held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 31, 2021 at the Hal Holmes Center in Ellensburg. Jim will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony at the Mountain View Cemetery in Leavenworth, Washington.

Jim was born on August 30, 1943 in Denver, Colorado, the first of two boys born to Dorothy Nies and James Hart Briggs. He was raised in the Denver area and graduated from South High School in 1961 where he was a member of the Junior ROTC program. Following graduation from high school, Jim attended Colorado State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Zoology and went on to earn his master’s degree in wildlife biology from Kansas State University.

Jim met Sue Denney while attending Colorado State and they were married on August 28, 1965 in Fort Collins, Colorado. They were blessed with two children - Jay and Amy.

Following graduation from Kansas State, Jim was hired by Cornell University where he worked in wildlife management. Later he accepted a position with Colorado State University as a county agent in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He returned to Cornell Cooperative Extension, working initially for Broome County and then developed the program for Hamilton County, New York. Jim was an active member in the community giving lectures, leading educational programs and volunteering in various organizations. He especially enjoyed his time volunteering for the Speculator Ambulance Corps. Jim retired from Cornell in 1999 as director of Hamilton County Cooperative Extension.

Following retirement, Jim and Sue moved to Ellensburg, Washington where he continued community service. He was an active member in Toastmasters, Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, Audubon Society, Rigadoon Dance Club, Jazz in the Valley, and Icicle Creek Center for the Arts in Leavenworth. Retirement also gave Jim time to perfect his cooking skills and he will be fondly remembered for his salmon, jambalaya, and nectarine pie.

Jim was an avid reader, collector of license plates and duck decoys. He also enjoyed many hobbies including hiking, cross country skiing and exploring the night sky with his telescope. In addition to going on many geology expeditions led by Nick Zentner, Jim was a longtime member of the Audubon Society and spent many hours bird watching. Some of his favorite travels included journeys to Hawaii, Ghana, India, Italy, England, France, Norway, South Africa and Costa Rica. 

Jim is survived by his wife, Sue, at the family home in Ellensburg; son Jay (Roxie) Briggs of Ellensburg and daughter Amy (Bob) Maher of Kirkland; grandchildren Jake, Madi, Julia & Andrew as well as brother Ken (Diane) Briggs of Ellensburg. Jim will be fondly remembered by his family and friends for his humble service, sense of adventure, and remarkable sense of humor.

Memorial contributions in Jim’s honor are welcome at the charity of your choice. Other suggestions include Gretchen Weller Foundation, PO Box 1762, Kittitas Audubon Society, PO Box 1443, both in Ellensburg or Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center www.fredhutch.org. Online condolences may be left at www.johnston-williams.com.


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