James Francis VanDamme “Toast”, 58, passed away in the early morning of Friday, January 5, 2024 after about 9 months of living with the challenges of cancer.
Jim was born April 15th, 1965 in Aurora, Minnesota. He spent his pre-teen years in Aurora, doing what the kids were doing those days – playing with kids in the neighborhood, in the park, in the ravine and woods around the house. He played youth hockey at the rinks in Aurora which is where his nickname “Toast” actually came from.
During his teen years, he bounced around from Aurora to other areas, living with Aunts or Uncles for periods of time. He was the middle child and he found trouble while pushing limits and boundaries and experimenting. He also formed lifelong friendships with people he went through it with. A common theme with Jim was always highs and lows – he loved the highs, but the highs often brought extreme lows that he would struggle to get out of.
Two of the very positive highs of his life were the births of his 2 children, Cassy born in 1982 and Jacob born in 1996. Their births brought more focus to Jim and he made a lot of effort to be there for them. But, when the lows hit for him, in whatever form, he would often run away. And that was Jim, a bit of a nomad moving from area to area, living with family or friends or making new friends. He would find jobs or start schooling or training of some sort, and excel at them, until a low of some sort would hit and he would run again. He would almost always land back in the Aurora area.
The other common theme with Jim was love, even when he was “burning bridges”, he always left remnants of love. Some of the things he loved doing were things like fishing, being out in nature, tinkering – whether being a carpenter or mechanic, both of which he was pretty darn good at. Otherwise, all of us saw how he loved and cared for children – both his own and others’ kids. He was always a favorite with the kids at the gatherings, whether with friends or family. And the animals too - dogs, cats, etc – they all loved him and were loved in return. For most of us, his love is what we will remember about him.
Yes, love, and a ton of stories that make us smile or laugh or cry…
Jim’s family includes his daughter, Cassy Burke and son, Jacob VanDamme; grandchildren (from Cassy): Sebastian Sebunia, Gabby Sebunia, and Kadence Sebunia; parents Leila (Lee) VanDamme and John (Jack) VanDamme (dec. 1988); siblings Jeff VanDamme (dec. 2011) and wife Sue, Tom VanDamme and wife Pam; Amy VanDamme; Jon VanDamme and wife Myranda. Numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews.
A short service and opportunity to share will be held at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, January 11, 2024 at the Ziemer-Moeglein-Shatava Funeral Home in Aurora with Pastor Darrell McCullough officiating, followed by a light lunch at the American Legion from 1 pm – 3 pm with more opportunities to share. Jim’s family would like to thank Essentia and Allina Hospices for the wonderful care they provided.