James E. Wasenmiller, MD
January 22, 1948 - March 12, 2017
James Edwin Wasenmiller, 69, was released from a body plagued with melanoma cancer on March 12. His passing was peaceful, embraced in love and togetherness.
Jim was an example of integrity and honesty to all who knew him. His deep generosity benefitted many. His gentle, dry humor was ever-present, and his sparkling blue eyes conveyed kindness and love.
Dr. Wasenmiller established the first cardiology practice in Salem in 1980 and served the greater Salem community for 35 years. He willingly worked long hours as he truly loved his patients and considered many to be his close friends. One of the most difficult aspects of his cancer diagnosis was the simultaneous “forced” retirement from a job and people that brought him such great joy and satisfaction.
Jim didn’t waste a moment of his 69 years. His formative and extensive school years were defined by holding down multiple jobs to pay tuition at Spangle Academy, Walla Walla College, and Loma Linda University. He developed strong arms and strong work ethic in building construction and mopping hospital floors. He learned new words cooking breakfasts in the northern Idaho Forest Service mess hall, and was later able to use these new words while dodging lightning strikes when stationed in a fire lookout tower. Jim developed his attention to detail meeting the exacting standards of a furniture shop and later mastering the art of a blood draw. His classmates describe him as witty and kind, everybody’s friend, and not afraid to get into a bit of trouble… so long as it was worth it.
The latter half of his life was no less busy. Quality family time was prioritized in the form of travel. He hauled his young family of six across the world to Rarotonga and Tahiti. He brought his oldest son to Laos and Vietnam to offer medical aid. He took his sons fly-fishing in Alaska and Patagonia. He and Kristie faithfully met each child during their college “semester abroad” for extensive European exploration. When home, his evenings and weekends were filled with meticulous woodworking projects, heavy-duty yard and house upkeep and repair, or bumping along on his 1950’s tractor cultivating the expansive blueberry patch, his prized garlic field, or Kristie’s bountiful vegetable garden. Most summer evenings Jim would slow down enough to enjoy a glass of wine on the back porch, gazing over the freshly mowed lawn and sunset-dappled leaves with a content smile and sigh, “This really is the most beautiful place on earth.”
It was obvious that Jim valued family above all else. His passing leaves behind his cherished and adoring wife of 44 years, Kristie; their four loving children, Katie (Jon,) Henry (Kelly,) Annie (Cameron) and Charlie (Christine;) and each of their families, including nine sweet grandchildren. Our Jim, our Dad, our Grandpa will be deeply missed. He will be remembered frequently, considered often, and loved always, his words of wit and wisdom echoing in our ears.
Facing his own vulnerability, Jim found a calmness in understanding his cancer prognosis two years ago. While undergoing treatment, he wrote in a letter to his daughter, “It has become clear that between God’s grace and the love of my family my soul is nurtured and I am at peace.” He also quoted Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
More recently, he left this quote on his desk for all of us:
"Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope, with death promising infinite love of God and happiness as we invite family and friends forever."