James Gordon Crabtree

August 14, 1940 - December 12, 2016

James Gordon Crabtree

August 14, 1940 - December 12, 2016


James “Jim” Gordon Crabtree, a lifetime Whatcom County resident, passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones on Monday December 12th, 2016 at his Farm in Custer Washington where he lived for 50 years.

Jim was born in Bellingham, WA. to Gerald and Ruth Crabtree (Ashton) August 14th, 1940. Jim was raised with three brothers and a sister on a potato and dairy farm. From a young age Jim worked in the family potato fields alongside his siblings, and fought with them over who got to help his mother in the kitchen instead.

While in grade school, Jim enjoyed roller-skating and dancing, leading to a lifelong appreciation for dancing. Jim took Home Economics classes and received award in some of the cooking competitions against the girls which likely fueled his interest in cooking in later life.

In high school, Jim took agriculture classes and was involved in the FFA and 4H in addition to playing football, baseball, and basketball. When he received his driver’s license at age 16, he got his first paying job driving around the county and testing milk. Jim graduated from Lynden High School in 1958 and bought his first farm shortly after.

He served in the Army National Guard but, due to farming conflicts, he decided to get out after his first enlistment.

Jim married Nada Bruington in 1961, and they had four children; Mark from San Antonio, TX, Wayne (Jodi) from Sedro Wooley, WA, Lori (Greg) from Bow, WA, and Todd (Paula) from Custer, WA. Jim briefly owned the Delta Grocery in Lynden, but he always knew, even at a very young age, that he wanted to be a farmer so he sold it to commit more time to farming. Jim achieved his childhood dream and operated a dairy farm on Sunrise Rd in Custer where he built the home he lived in for the remainder of his life.
During his career, Jim also worked throughout the county as a breeder for American Breeders Service. He cherished the friendships he acquired while doing this job during his career.

Jim enjoyed having a good time, and his dancing skills certainly did not hinder his reputation as a ladies’ man. Jim had many interests in his later life, including frequent card games, listening to country and gospel music, cooking, eating, and traveling – especially to Branson, Missouri. In recent years, Jim spent the coldest part of the year in Yuma, AZ hanging out with relatives and friends he made along the way. One of the most important people to him was his longtime friend and companion, Donna Wiebe, who he cherished whole-heartedly. They often took different travel routes to Yuma, including an annual stop in Branson.

Jim ALWAYS lived his life on his own terms, and which he insisted to finish on his beloved farm. He would not have been able to live out his life at home without the help from a special family who lived above him Mike Nielsen and Lindsey Hoffman, we are eternally grateful, as was my dad.

Jim is preceded in death by his parents, Gerald and Ruth Crabtree; and a niece Kasey Crabtree. He is survived by his 3 brothers (Bill, Jerry, Bob) and 1 sister (Monica), his 4 children, 9 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A public visitation will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 20th from 4-8:00pm at Moles Farewell Tributes Greenacres (5700 NW Dr. Ferndale) and on Wednesday, Dec. 21st at 11:30am, followed by a Funeral Service at Moles Greenacres at 1:00pm.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Whatcom Hospice Foundation (2901 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham WA 98225).


And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer. ~Paul Harvey

Funeral Service

  • Date & Time: December 21, 2016 (12:00 AM)
  • Venue: Greenacres Memorial Park And Event CenterFerndale
  • Location: 5700 Northwest Drive Ferndale, WA 98248 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (360) 38-4-3401

Graveside Service

  • Date & Time: December 21, 2016 (12:00 AM)
  • Venue: Greenacres Memorial Park
  • Location: 5700 Northwest Drive Ferndale, WA 98248 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (360) -38-4-3401


  • Date & Time: December 20, 2016 (12:00 AM)
  • Venue: Moles Farewell Tributes - Greenacres
  • Location: 5700 Northwest Dr Ferndale, WA 98248 - (Get Directions)

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9 responses to James Gordon Crabtree

  1. Anonymous says:

    Bill, Jerry, Monica & Bob…. Family gatherings without Jim is difficult to realize. I am sorry for your loss… my condolences to you all. cathy

  2. I was so sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. It was too soon. I saw him at the senior center in Lynden at Thanksgiving and briefly said hello. I wanted to speak to him again after the dinner, but he was gone by the time I left. Mt thoughts and prayers are with your family.

  3. You will always be missed, but I feel you are right across the street, same as always. You have always been in the kids lives. They love you. So many memories.

  4. I remember growing up and seeing Jim at family gatherings at my Grandparents house, Barney & Nancy Holtrop. I always remembered he had a smile on his face at all times. Although I did not get to know him well, the times we all shared as a family at my grandparents will always be cherished. May he rest in peace. During this time of mourning, I wish you all the strength to get through this hard time. Know you are all loved, and remember the great memories Jim has given us all!

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