James Zurcher

October 10, 1970 - October 31, 2023

James Zurcher

October 10, 1970 - October 31, 2023


James Frederick Zurcher, 53, of Bellingham, WA passed away peacefully at home in the arms of his loving family on October 31st, 2023.  Jim fought cancer with superpower strength for over 2 years.

In the end, his ultimate strength was the way he lived his life wholeheartedly squeezing the meaningful fun out of every day.  He made sure his time here was filled with adventure, gaining wisdom, human connection and love.  Jim was known to make friends with ease and had a genuine curiosity of every person’s life journey.  He brought so much joy to others with his enthusiastic sense of adventure and his gift of storytelling.   Towards the end of his life, he had resolved that he would not wish to trade his 53 full years of “a charmed life” for any other way.

Jim was born to Hans Rudolph and Heidi Zurcher on October 10, 1970.  He grew up on a family dairy farm in Enumclaw, WA with 3 siblings and a view of Mount Rainier out his front door.  As a child outside working on the farm, he dreamed of climbing that mountain.  That dream was accomplished at the age of 15 and was just the beginning of many years of incredible outdoor adventures to come. Jim would go on to climb, ski, hike and bike as many mountains as as he could.

Jim graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1989 where he enjoyed cross country running, track and skiing at Crystal Mountain, where he worked for many years.  Next, he graduated from Western Washington University.  While attending WWU he spent time skiing and teaching ski lessons at Mount Baker Ski Area.  He also worked on trail crews in the national forests.  Jim developed a deep appreciation for the preservation of wild natural spaces.  During this time, he also traveled to Switzerland where he lived for a few years connecting to his Swiss heritage and enjoying many mountain adventures in Europe and Pakistan.  Jim later completed his master’s in teaching at Seattle University.  He began his teaching career in the shoreline school district before devoting 23 years to Whatcom Middle School in the Bellingham School District as an 8th grade Social Studies and Literature teacher.  Jim’s talents went far beyond education students.  He was a teacher who built strong, supportive relationships with students.   Jim had a special way of making sure every child felt important in his classroom and many previous students cherish a thoughtful and special nickname they were given by Mr. Zurcher.  His connections with children in Bellingham will far outlast any one lifetime.

Jim met his love and life partner, Heather Cullen, during his fun-filled days at Crystal Mountian.  They were married in 2001.   The newlyweds enjoyed numerous crazy outdoor adventures and travels before settling down into their home in Bellingham.  Jim and Heather soon welcomed their children Ana and Rudy into their world with devotional love.  Jim felt overwhelming pride for Ana and Rudy.  He thoroughly enjoyed coaching, teaching, listening, adventuring and loving his family.  His work-hard-play- hard attitude and zest for life continue to shine through his children.

Jim will be remembered dearly for his many superpowers, including belly rolls, yodeling, storytelling, superhuman endurance and his contagious, loud laugh.  Let us honor Jim and look to the mountains with the same love and reverence he did; as he was known to say, “Mountains are medicine for the soul.”

Jim is survived by his wife Heather, daughter Ana, son Rudy, mother Heidi, brother Theodore, sister Julia, may nieces and nephews, one great niece and numerous aunts and uncles.  He was proceeded in death by his father Hans Rudolph and brother Edward.

Special thanks and gratitude for tremendous care, love and support to Jim and his family to Virginia Mason Medical Center, Peacehealth Cancer Center, North Cascade Cancer Center and Whatcom Hospice Foundation.  More specifically, Dr. Mika Hubka, Dena Hedgaard, Lucas Kawtoski, Dr. Chanudi Weerasinghe, Dr. Alexei Polishchuck and their teams of beautiful humans.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Jims’s honor to Whatcom Hospice Foundation or Bellingham Schools Foundation.  A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at 1:30 pm on December 16, 2023, at Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, WA.

Celebration of Life

  • Date & Time: December 16, 2023 (1:30 PM)
  • Venue: Semiahmoo Resort
  • Location: Blaine, WA - (Get Directions)

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2 responses to James Zurcher

  1. Tad Lewis says:

    This was shocking news. I am so sorry for all that are affected by Jim’s loss.
    Jim taught across the hall from me at Whatcom. We had many discussions about students and daily things that went on during the day. I was always amazed at the many creative lessons he would come up with. It was such a joy to have him as a friend.
    May you find peace as you walk this journey of grief. God bless all of you.

  2. We love you Mr. Zurcher, may you finally be pain free in mind, body and spirit! Thank you for all the laughter and joy you brought to so many of us students and my younger siblings Audrey and Kevin, as well as Mom Marcia. Lost my Papa Christoph at 57 who I imagine you would have remembered always a social butterfly, involved in every parent chaperone, after school activity much like yourself; whose obituary is also under Molesfarewell from 2021 to the all too stealthy illness that is cancer. As well departing the earthly realm in October like yourself, wild the similarities. Took us all by surprise people who are young, active, have so much enthusiasm for life, family. May they fly high in the celestials, heavens sharing perhaps a german beer, stories of their children and wives, travels in Europe (my papa was German) together. That they may forever continue to live on in our hearts as we carry on their legacies. Anything and everything they loved doing. Sending big virtual air hugs to all his beloved family, friends, coworkers. He won’t be forgotten and was a core part of our youth that’s for certain! My Papa always said “Celebrate Life” and that’s what we’ll do, even on the hard days when getting out of bed is difficult. Make the most of life in its beautiful, complicated fragility many of us know all too well. Grief isn’t linear, there’s no “right way” to do it, so allowing ourselves grace, patience, dark sense of humor as we navigate the highs and lows whatever helps to get us by. I know he is so proud of who ya’ll are becoming and looking down watching over you every step of the way. Each new milestone you hit. Owls, foxes, rainbows have been prominent symbols of my Papa being nearby, I hope you can find comfort in something similar. You are not alone. Wishing many blessings for a fruitful, healing Spring Season to your Wonderful Family!

    ~The Limbach Family

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