James R. (Jim) Baril, age 84, passed away peacefully with his children and wife by his side July 31, 2019. Jim was born May 26, 1935 in Crookston, Minn. He was the son of the late Theophil “Tuff” and Myrtle Baril.
Jim graduated from Lafayette High School in Red Lake Falls, Minn. He was active as a drummer in the jazz band, as an athlete he ran track, played basketball and was the quarterback of the football team. Following high school, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army and extended his service in the Army Reserves. While in the Army Reserves he received his Bachelor of Arts in English at Bemidji State University. He furthered his education with post graduate studies at Washington State University and the University of Northern Illinois. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Jim joined the faculty of Western State College (now Western Colorado University) and was a professor of English for 30 years retiring in 1996 being recognized by the college as a professor emeritus.
At Western State College Jim was involved in the faculty senate, as an advisor, as the Voice of the Mountaineers and as a coach. For 26 years booming across Gunnison from atop the Mountaineer Bowl football stadium, Jim’s voice would highlight the Saturday afternoon activities on the field. In perhaps his most rewarding role as a coach, Jim coached the Western Women’s Tennis Team to multiple RMAC conference championships.
Within the Gunnison community Jim was active in many leadership and civic roles. He directed/produced several plays for the Gunnison theater group Webster Players. It was very common following one of his plays to have Webster Hall shaking with the standing ovations from the audience following the last act. Jim loved being outdoors and active in the Gunnison Country, initially embracing downhill skiing at Crested Butte, then shifting to cross country skiing up Mill Creek, or hiking, and most recently mountain biking. He fully leveraged the trails by Gunnison Trails at Hartman Rocks and in Van Tuyl’s fields out to the Gunnison River. For decades, he was a regular on the Gunnison tennis courts both at Western and Charmar Park.
If it was competitive and athletic, he was an enthusiastic participant. From community softball and basketball leagues to competitive racquetball, he loved competition and the camaraderie among athletes. One of his passions was the Gunnison River, particularly rafting the river. He would teach an experiential writing course during summer school about rafting the river. There was something magical, spiritual and deeply stirring about the river that called to him, it sustained and nurtured life, was approachable and flowed endlessly but with such power and force over time to shape landscapes.
Jim was preceded in death by his father Theophil, his mother Myrtle, his brother Richard (Dick) and his youngest sister Sue. Jim is survived by his loving wife of 60 years Bonnie of Gunnison and his twin brother Jack. He was the proud and devoted father of Kristi Baril of Evergreen, Colo., and Kent Baril and his wife Kathy of Sammamish, Wash. He loved his grandchildren James, Emily and Erica Baril all of Sammamish, Wash.
A celebration of Jim’s life is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at the Western Colorado University Student Center ballroom after the homecoming football game. The celebration is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. with coffee and refreshments after to allow friends and family to remember Jim and his contributions to Gunnison and Western.
Thank you to the Western Colorado University Foundation, particularly Tom Burggraf for assistance in establishing the Jim Baril memorial scholarship to extend and further Jim’s legacy at the University.
The Dr. Jim Baril Memorial English Scholarship has been established to celebrate Jim’s legacy of teaching.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift in Jim’s memory, please send a check payable to: Western Colorado University Foundation (write “Baril Memorial” on the memo line), 909 E. Escalate Dr., Gunnison, CO 81231. In lieu of flowers or donations, the family encourages you to consider the scholarship fund from the Western Foundation.