James Patrick Fassler was born June 15, 1934 in Canon City, Colorado, to Joseph and Frances Konty Fassler, and died July 3, 2019, in Worland, Wyoming. Jim grew up in a house built by his father and surrounded by his mother’s prodigious garden. His family taught him to work hard and eat well. After a stellar athletic career at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City, he went on to Regis (Jesuit) College, Denver, where he stumbled into English and Secondary Education, and discovered a lifelong vocation of reading, teaching, and coaching. In 1956, Jim married his life-long love, Margaret Mary Smith, and they began their family life in Denver. After a few years in Denver and Dubois, Wyoming, Jim and Margie and their growing family settled in Worland. There they made their home, their mark, and many dear friends.
Jim was a perennial volunteer in church and community, and for most summers out of school, he worked with the U.S. Forest Service or painted houses, but from 1961 to 1990, most people knew him as Mr. Fassler or Coach Fassler. He taught English to generations of Worland students and coached dozens of Warrior football, golf, basketball, and track and field teams, including the 1978 state champion girls track and field team. In the 1970s, Jim was instrumental in establishing girls’ basketball in Wyoming. With Margie, friends, and the Worland Elks Club, he founded the Wyoming State Girls Track and Field Meet of Champions and earned himself and Margie a spot in the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame.
Jim’s education career also included teaching extension courses for NWCC and UW and a second career with UW Outreach. Long after retirement, he often read history books and led or participated in life-long learning courses. He also loved to learn about his Catholic faith, which he shared in class and by example with the St. Mary Magdalen community and the wider world. From earning his M.Ed. at UW in 1972 to his last years, he was a model for people who understand that life is best lived in learning.
Jim received teaching and coaching awards, but his favorite recognition and some lasting friendships came from students who returned to him years after graduation to thank him for bringing out their best in the classroom and for passing along his love of literature and learning. Jim cared deeply about the people he taught and coached. His students and athletes remembered, liked, and loved Jim, as did many other people he touched. Wherever he went, even far beyond Wyoming’s borders, Jim would run into friends, friends of friends, family of friends, and spend happy minutes reminiscing and renewing those relationships.
As active a professional and a volunteer as Jim was, though, the center of his life was his family. He was a loving partner to Margie for 62 years. He raised, taught, coached, and cherished 5 children, and always looked forward to spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. To all these generations, Jim left invaluable legacies: a love for standing in mountain air and running water to see a trout rise, an appreciation of good humor, gratitude for lovingly-prepared food, a generosity of spirit for loved ones and people less fortunate, and an enthusiasm for beer, Rockies baseball, Broncos football, and women’s basketball. Jim’s last two years were difficult, but it is a tribute to his loving example that he was visited often by his far-flung children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their families.
Jim was preceded in death by his daughter (Debby Reed), 5 brothers (Joe Fabyan, Paul, Leo, John, and Ed), sister (Helen Holden), daughter-in-law (Kandyce Coker), and son-in-law (John Lamb). He is survived by Margie, who was holding his hand when he drew his last breath, daughters Becky Lamb and Amy (Scott) Evans, sons Stephen Strong (Catherine) and Chris (Suzanne) Fassler, son-in-law John Reed, brother David, 11 grandchildren (Danny [Jennifer], Pat [Shae], Miranda [Colton], Nevin, Mariah, Connor, Kenna, Aaron, Shannon, Theresa, and Padraig), great-grandchildren (Irelyn, Luis, Georgia, and Gabriel), many nieces and nephews and their families, and countless friends—all of whom feel blessed by Jim’s love and example.
Margie and the family thank the many friends and neighbors who eased the challenges of these last months with a thousand kindnesses, great and small.
Memorial donations may be made at jdrf.org or to the Fund for the Poor at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church, Worland.
A Vigil Service will be held 7pm, Sunday, July 14, 2019 at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Worland. The Memorial Mass will be Monday, July 15, 2019 at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church at 10am. The Graveside Service to follow at Riverview Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Worland.
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