A Celebration of Jim's life will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2023 from 2:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Devils Lake Elks Lodge.
James Vernon Klett, a dedicated and highly respected individual in the field of wildlife law enforcement, passed away on September 12, 2023. Jim's life was marked by his unwavering commitment to protecting the natural world and his deep love for his family and friends. He leaves behind a legacy of integrity, bravery, and compassion that will be remembered for years to come.
Born on January 26, 1951, in Logan, Utah, to Albert and Barbara (Campbell) Klett, Jim grew up in Mandan, North Dakota before moving with his family to Devils Lake in the spring of 1963. In the fall of 1965, they relocated once again to Jamestown. Jim graduated from Jamestown High School in 1969 and went on to attend Jamestown College from 1969 to 1974. During his college years, he proudly played basketball for the Jamestown College Jimmies for three years.
After completing his education, Jim embarked on an illustrious career in wildlife law enforcement. He began his journey as a State Game Warden with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department after college. It was during this time that fate brought him face-to-face with Cheryl Kurtz, who would become his loving wife. They exchanged vows on June 19, 1976, at St. Joseph Church in Devils Lake.
In October of 1977, Jim's dedication and skills led him to be hired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Special Agent. Following six months of rigorous training in Glynco, Georgia, he was assigned to his first duty station in Watertown, South Dakota. From May 1978 until September of 1983, Jim served diligently in South Dakota while embracing the joys of fatherhood. His beloved daughter LeAnn was born in 1979, followed by the birth of his son Scott in 1981.
Even with his daughter LeAnn just one week old at the time, Jim’s dedication knew no bounds as his commitment to protecting endangered species was exemplified by his five-week assignment safeguarding Peregrine Falcons along the Yukon River in Alaska. After the birth of Scott, the airport in Watertown held an airplane for him as his reservations wasn’t cancelled in time.
The mountains of Wyoming beckoned to Jim's adventurous spirit, leading him to be assigned to Lander in August of 1983. He cherished the rugged landscapes and thrilling experiences the state offered. Throughout his career, he undertook a diverse range of tasks, from enforcing wildlife violations to conducting undercover hunting trips.
Jim's love for nature extended beyond his professional life. He found solace and joy in spending time camping in the beautiful Wind River Mountains above Lander with his family. These adventures in the great outdoors created lasting memories that will forever be treasured by those who had the privilege to join him.
Throughout his 30 years in wildlife law enforcement, Jim formed deep and meaningful connections with colleagues from various agencies – State Game Wardens, Park Service personnel, Forest Service members, U.S. Attorneys, and Highway Patrol officers. He spoke fondly and highly of each and every one of them because he valued their camaraderie and shared commitment to preserving our natural heritage.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Jim was honored by the ShiKar-Safari Club International as North Dakota's Wildlife Officer of the Year in December of 1976, as a testament to his tireless efforts and unwavering dedication.
Jim returned to the place where it all began – the Devils Lake Duty Station – in 1994. However, after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Fish and Wildlife Special Agents were being considered to serve as Air Marshals, but Jim ultimately decided that retirement was a more fitting choice and retired in 2002. Although Jim's professional journey had come to an end, his passion for wildlife conservation continued unabated.
In his retirement years, Jim enjoyed feeding and watching the many birds that entertained him in the backyard. He also enjoyed many elk hunting trips back to Wyoming, bird hunting with his dogs in North Dakota, numerous grouse hunting trips to the hunting cabin in Canada with his brother Bill.
Jim and Cheri were UND season ticket holders for football and hockey. They so enjoyed going to the games together. GO SIOUX!
Jim was a loving husband and father who cherished every moment spent with his family. He is survived by his devoted wife of 47 years, Cheri Klett of Devils Lake; cherished daughter LeAnn Klett (Dean) of Devils Lake, along with her daughter, his granddaughter Alexis (Adam) of Mandan; and beloved son Scott Klett, his wife Kristine, and their children, Jim's grandsons Kaleb, Hudson, and Jasper, all of Devils Lake.
He is also survived by his brother Bill Klett and his wife Wendy of Jamestown, as well as his nephew Ross Klett (Megan)of Jamestown. Niece Katie Klett, her husband Guoqing of Yunnan, China, and their son Lu also mourn his loss. He is additionally survived by brothers-in-law Greg Kurtz and his wife Dori of Minot, ND; Steve Kurtz and his wife Pip of Lakewood, Colorado; Glen Kurtz and his wife Lori of Devils Lake; and sister-in-law Karen Lynch and her husband Michael of Rathdrum, Idaho; nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews (Greg's) Jaxson and Prezlie, (Steve's) Seth, Atalie and Jess, (Glen's), Cienna (Justin) Toso and child Trevin, Ryan (Chelsey) Kurtz and children Saige and Robbie, Chelsea (Chris) DeBruto and children Evelyn, Halle, Simon and Lauren, Holden Kurtz (Taylor), (Karen's), Billie (Ben) Crawford and children Mykael and Blake, Laura (Jake) Higbee and children Mason and Tanner, Robin (Steven) Mcanenay and child Ila; some very special friends include Gary Good, Kent Schmidlin, Dave Kraft, Dave Wicks, Doug Crawford and John Cooper.
He was preceded in death by his parents Albert and Barbara, in-laws Casper and Madelyn Kurtz.
James Vernon Klett will be deeply missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him. He brought light into the world through his dedication to wildlife conservation, his love for family and friends, and the countless memories he created. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations to protect our glorious natural world. May he rest in eternal peace.