James “Jim” Ray Frey, 78, was ushered to heaven by his wife, his children, and all his grandchildren, who were by his side on Friday, November 10, 2023, at St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester, MN.
Throughout Jim’s illness and the challenging side effects of treatment, he expressed his resilient spirit with the words, “When the Lord calls me home, I am going to go, but until then I’m going to fight like hell”—and that he did. His words reflected his strength and determination as he faced the fight for his life with courage and tenacity until his last moments.
Jim was born on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, in West Union, the youngest of four children of A.K. “Kenny” Frey and Ercyle (White) Frey. He attended school in West Union, and his favorite class was of course, shop. He participated in football and wrestling where he was a state qualifier. He graduated from North High School with the class of 1963. He lived nearly his entire life in West Union.
Jim married the love of his life Diane Elaine Nading at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Volga, IA on July 18, 1964, and they joyfully celebrated their 59th anniversary this past summer. Their story began at Strawberry Point Roller Rink, where Jim, with a sparkle in his eye, taught Diane how to skate while trying to impress her by showing off his own skating prowess. Together, they lovingly raised three children: Robyn, Russell, and Tanya.
In his early years, Jim worked at the family business, The Humphry Dairy. After high school, he embarked on a lifelong career in the construction trades, excelling as a finish carpenter, licensed electrician, and plumber. In later years, he worked with his father in developing Frey’s Mobile Home Park. They also sold recreational vehicles and modular homes in West Union and surrounding towns.
In 1974, Jim established his lifelong dream, Jim Frey Fish Hatchery. Among the wide range of fish he raised, he achieved excellence in the breeding of hybrid bluegills, making them (and him) in high demand not only locally but across the country. In 2019, Jim secured a federal grant for research in aquaculture, leading to his development of an innovative sustainable aquatic floating fish tank. During his 50-year tenure in the business, he made many lifelong friends and loyal customers who sought him out for his knowledge and expertise. The advice he would give would be delivered in the authentic “Jim Frey style” that those who knew him would recognize (if you know, you know). In reflecting on his love of work, he would remark “If working only when you want to means you are semi-retired, then I must have been semi-retired all my life—even when I worked 18 hours a day”. He found his greatest joy in tending to his ponds and selling fish while working side by side with his wife, Diane, his son, Russ, his daughter-in-law, Dawn, and his granddaughter, Jessica, all of whom will carry on the fish hatchery business the way Jim would have wanted.
Jim’s most notable accomplishment lay in the deep and unwavering bonds he forged with every member of his family, a testament to the profound and fierce love he held for each of them, and they for him. He embodied the roles of enforcer, teacher, protector, and advisor with a kind heart—qualities understood by those who knew him well. He was one of a kind, exceptional in his own unique way.
Jim left a priceless legacy of spiritual faith to all who knew him, proudly displaying the words “My boss is a Jewish carpenter” in both his shop and his fish hatchery.
He was preceded in death by his loving parents, his “guiding light” Uncle Russell, and his cherished uncles and aunts.
Jim is survived by his beloved wife Diane; devoted son and daughters Robyn Frey (Mark), Cologne, MN; Russell Frey (Dawn), West Union; Tanya Lippincott (Ross), Eden Prairie, MN; 7 adoring grandchildren Zachary Frey (Olivia), Ackley, IA; Zoey Frey, Waukon, IA; Jessica Frey, Clermont, IA; Riley Swenson, Chaska, MN; Sydney Swenson, Cologne, MN; Josephine Lippincott, New York City, NY; Tommy Lippincott, Eden Prairie, MN; caring brother and sisters, Robert Frey (Amy), Honolulu HI; Phyllis Frey, Georgetown, TX; Donna Blue (Jerry), West Union; and many supportive cousins.
We would like to thank the medical teams at St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester, MN, as well as all other health care providers for their extraordinary, kind, and compassionate care.
Visitation will be held from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Friday November 17, 2023 at Burnham-Wood-Grau Funeral Home in West Union. There will also be a one hour visitation before services at the church on Saturday.
Funeral Service will be at 10:30 am on Saturday, November 18, 2023 at Zion Lutheran Church in West Union, Iowa with TEEM Lead, Isaiah Stansbery as the officiant.
Burial will follow at West Union Cemetery in West Union, Iowa.
Burnham-Wood- Grau Funeral Home and Cremation Service in West Union, Iowa is assisting family with arrangements.