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James “Jim” Schreifels, 76, of Watkins, passed away surrounded by his family on Monday, March 23,
2020 at the St. Cloud Hospital. A memorial Mass will be held at a later date, along with a social gathering
like those Jim loved. Arrangements are with the Ertl Funeral Home, Watkins.
Jim was born on January 6, 1944 to George and Agnes (Peters) Schreifels at Belgrade, Minnesota - and
despite their plans for his to be the first hospital birth in the family, he came into this world in a Ford
Model T at the end of their driveway. As a boy, Jim recalled seeing electricity come to the Belgrade-area
farm he grew up on, and he farmed alongside his father there for several years after he graduated from
Belgrade High School in 1961.
In 1964, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army, and he earned his Special Forces Green Beret in 1965 after
completing Airborne training at Fort Benning, GA and Combat Engineering and Special Forces training at
Fort Bragg, NC. He later completed Spanish language training at the Defense Language Institute in
Monterey, CA. Jim served much of his time as a Special Forces Combat Engineer in the Panama Canal
Zone as a member of the 8th Special Forces Group, with shorter missions to Puerto Rico and other
Central American locations. Although his overseas service didn’t include time in Vietnam itself, he was
particularly proud of his work at the Jungle Warfare School in the Canal Zone, preparing his brothers in
arms to survive that warzone. As his discharge date approached in 1967, Jim and a buddy drove a pickup
truck over 3,000 miles north from Panama to his official discharge point at Fort Bliss, Texas, selling the
vehicle after they arrived.
After his discharge from the Army, Jim enrolled in the University of Minnesota, majoring in Animal
Science. In 1968, Jim came home from college to visit his mother in Rockville and met the young woman
renting a room there, a teacher from Hibbing, MN named Margi. Two years later, Jim married Margaret
Dunne at St Boniface Church in Cold Spring, MN on April 25, 1970. He graduated with a Bachelor of
Science degree in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota in 1971, and Jim and Margi moved to
their farm in Watkins in 1972.
Over the next fifty years, Jim and Margi welcomed six children and fourteen grandchildren into the
world. Dad provided many lessons to his kids, including "Be quiet when the news is on," "You always
have room for ice cream!", have respect for God and country, and there's always a good time for a dad
joke. Grandpa was also loved for many reasons, but taking the grandchildren for Ranger rides, being
funny, and “always playing with them” were some of their favorite memories. Jim was looking forward
to celebrating fifty years of marriage to Margi on April 25, 2020, surrounded by their children and
grandchildren in the same place they celebrated their wedding reception five decades earlier -
overlooking Pleasant Lake at the 400 Club.
The family fondly remembers him for his love of auctions, old tractors, and hot chocolate. Jim was an
avid fabricator who envisioned better things for every piece of equipment or scrap metal he came
across. He had an encyclopedic memory of everything he tinkered with and was quick to share advice
and knowledge, particularly regarding tractors and farming. Jim’s collection of 2-cylinder tractors grew
and shrank over the years, but he always had an old Allis-Chalmers tucked away somewhere. Even as it
became more difficult for Jim in later years to make it out to his shop, he loved connecting with people
across the country through online forums, where he made many friends and helped solve many of their
Jim’s pride in serving his country as an Airborne soldier and a Green Beret was visible to anyone he met,
in the form of his ever-present black cap with the Airborne and Special Forces insignia. One of his
proudest moments was pinning Airborne wings on his youngest daughter in 2010, standing on the same
training grounds at Fort Benning where he had earned his own jump wings 45 years earlier. He was a
member of the Watkins American Legion Post #453 for many years, and he recently joined the Special
Forces Association and became a life member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Jim’s sense of service extended to his community as well. Jim was an active member of St. Anthony
Catholic Church in Watkins and enjoyed volunteering as a church usher. He cared deeply about the local
and national policies that affect us as citizens, and stepped up to participate in Republican and
conservative causes in a variety of roles over the years, including local caucus chair and delegate to the
state convention. Jim spent countless hours in both leadership and recruiting roles for the organizations
he gave his time to, always reaching out to convince more people to become involved with groups like
the Legion, the Knights of Columbus, and the Forest City Threshers. If he didn’t have a raffle ticket to sell
you, he made sure to let you know the date of the next fundraising pancake dinner or fish fry. He
enjoyed socializing and supporting area churches and other organizations through pancake dinners,
festivals, and other fundraisers.
Jim is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Margi Schreifels of Watkins, and their six children and
fourteen grandchildren: Catherine Zadra (Curt Blood) of Watkins, and her children Elizabeth, Nicholas,
and Alexander; Mark Schreifels of Kimball, and his children Tyler, Jayce, Dustin, and Travis; Joanna Carley
(Richard Claypool) of Maple Grove; Kevin (Christy) Schreifels of Long Prairie, and their children Kaitlyn,
Steven, and Jacob; Michael (Dayna) Schreifels of Watkins, and their children Payton, Ashlyn, Jordyn, and
Rylan; and Jennifer Schreifels (Jonathan Watkins) of Minneapolis. He is also survived by his sisters, Sue
(Charles) Buchan of Cave Creek, AZ and Dolores Vornbrock of Orchard Green, MD.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Eugene Schreifels; sister, Ramona Schneider; and
infant brother, Joseph Schreifels.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jim Schreifels, please visit our floral store.