MONTGOMERY – James Edgar Willard of Montgomery passed peacefully away on September 25 at St. Albans Healthcare and Rehabilitation after battling health problems. He was 79.

James was born on Christmas, 1940 in Morrisville to Keith and Ilene Willard. He grew up in Essex Junction with his three sisters. As a youth, he was popular, athletic and a member of the ‘Silver Mitten’s’ boxing youth league, organized by the Essex Police Chief. He also delivered the Burlington Free Press and had one of the largest paper routes in the state.

As a young man, he earned the nickname ‘Cyclone’ Jim, competing in the 1960 Golden Gloves welter-weight competition at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, and earning the semi-finalist Sportsmanship trophy after a hard-fought championship battle that was remembered for years later among local amateur boxing fans.

James attended Johnson State Teachers College for a short time, then served six years in the Air Force Reserve. He was honorably discharged in 1967. He went on to become a successful salesman, and then manager of sales for The Montgomery Schoolhouse, a renowned Vermont wooden toy business. He was always proud to show off the latest line of toys to his family and friends.

As an individual, James had two sides: on the one hand, he was spirited and outgoing, enjoying life with his friends and loved ones, sharing his love of music through his wonderful singing voice, and bringing laughter and warmth to family events; on the other hand, he treasured his solitude and artistic talents. For many years, he painted rustic Vermont and northern New England scenes, then gave most of those paintings away to family and friends. He spent much of his life in Montgomery, living quietly close to the woods and the streams in which he fished for trout.

James fished, hunted and cross-country skied with his sons, teaching them an appreciation for a quieter way of living amidst the beauty of Vermont. Their times together helped form the bond between a father and his sons.

James is survived by his sons, James John, David and Michael, his grandchildren, James Paul, Eric, Nicole and Kayla, and his sisters Joyce Bergeron, Deanna Hayes and Gloria Leggett.

A private graveside ceremony will be held at a future time. In lieu of a specific charity, the family suggests that donations be made to the charity of one’s choice.

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