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Colonel James W. Vorhies


Colonel James W. Vorhies, USAF (Ret.) passed away on Tuesday, August 9th in Des Moines, Iowa (IA) at the age of 91.


Born in Rexfive, IA, Jim spent his early childhood in Bussey, IA. Later he attended high school in Newton, IA where his family operated the Washer City Cafe for many years. After graduation, he attended Drake University for a brief period until he enlisted in the Air Force. In 1990, Jim earned a bachelor's degree in History from the University of Colorado.


Jim’s military career began when he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1951 and continued for over 30 years retiring in 1981 with the rank of Colonel. His service to his country included two tours of duty in Germany (1956 and 1962) and one in Vietnam in 1969, flying the Air Force’s most sophisticated, complex, and lethal fighter jets. Additionally, he held command positions at many of his later stations as he was regarded as an expert in aircraft maintenance.


Jim was a command pilot and earned many military awards and decorations. These included the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. In addition, he received numerous other medals, some with oak leaf clusters from several of his stations during his long, distinguished, and highly decorated career.


As well as to his love of country and flying, Jim was an avid outdoorsman. His father, James, instilled a passion for fishing and hunting in his sons Jim and Dave at an early age. One of Jim's greatest joys was fly fishing the Smith River, south of Great Falls, Montana where he owned land and a cabin for over 50 years. His retirement years were spent between his home near Des Moines and the cabin in Montana with his wife of 28 years, Susan Vorhies. Jim was an inexhaustible historian and was always ready to debate the politics of the day with anyone who visited.


In addition to Susan, Jim is survived by his sisters Karen Udelhoven (Don), Karla Sears, and Kathy Slycord (Donnie) and his children Linda Christine Saulnier (Calvin), Mary Tracy Dingman (Paul) and James Brady Vorhies (Suzanne). He had seven grandchildren and 4.5 (one on the way) great grandchildren as well as many nieces and nephews.


He was preceded in death by his father, James R. Vorhies, mother, Mary Lefko, step-mother Ruth Vorhies, brother, David Vorhies, sister-in-law, Mikelle Vorhies, and their son Steve Vorhies, as well as Jim’s first wife, Joyce Classen.


A Celebration of Life reception will be on Tuesday, November 22, 2022 at the Van Meter American Legion Veterans Reception Center from 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Then at 2:00 p.m., Jim's military service will take place at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. A private memorial service for close family and friends will be held at his beloved property in Montana.