Jim Bartelma, 77, of Runnells, passed away on July 1, 2023, from injuries sustained in a vehicle collision. He was born in 1945 to Dan and Jean (McFadden) Bartelma, and graduated from Runnells High School before studying Agriculture at Iowa State. A man of quiet principle and quick wit, he was fortunate to see a lot of the world but always called Runnells home.
Jim devoted a good share of his life to the family farm established by his father, an operation he steadily grew and improved with long days of work and a keen mind for business. A farmer and rancher through and through, Jim loved the change of seasons, hated thorny brush, and always knew the weather forecast.
Jim’s love of the land was matched by his love of the sky. He joined the Iowa Air National Guard in 1966, where he flew fighter aircraft including the A-7 and F-100. He served as Commander of the 124th Tactical Fighter Squadron and retired as a Colonel after 30 years of service. Jim’s military career took him to interesting places around the world and introduced him to lifelong friends – including Cynthia, who became his wife in 1971.
Jim and Cynthia shared 52 loving years and raised three kids together on the farm – his “most important crop.” He felt truly lucky in life. He loved his work, took pride in his kids, and found satisfaction in giving his grandkids popcorn and ice cream for breakfast. Jim was curious about new places and new ideas – in recent years he and Cynthia road-tripped through New Zealand and Spain, toured farms across South America, and jetted to Dubai and Hong Kong – but he also saw value in old things. After retiring as a fighter pilot, Jim restored a 1946 Aeronca Champ two-seater airplane, which he used to check the cattle, and he was in the process of restoring a 1950 Chevy pickup.
He is survived by Cynthia and their three children, Greg (Becky) of Runnells, Jeff (Jess Ng) of San Francisco, and Katy (Sean Boyce) of Washington, D.C; five grandchildren; his sister, Connie Banks; and a large, close-knit extended family. He is preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Carole Holcomb.
A gathering of family, friends, and neighbors will be held on Friday, July 28 from 5 – 7:30 p.m., at Baqara in Runnells. The funeral service will be held on Sunday, July 30, 2023 at 2:00 pm at First Reformed Church in Prairie City, with interment to follow at Waveland Cemetery in Prairie City. In lieu of flowers, please consider extending some help to a neighbor in need or making a blood donation in Jim’s honor.