James Durfee

Obituary of James Roy Durfee

James Roy Durfee, age 88 passed away peacefully on December 5th, 2022 in Auburndale, Florida. ‘Skip’ as he was affectionately known by his friends and family, was born on February 25, 1934 to James Jacob Durfee and Elsie Vera Martens. Following the death of his mother from tuberculosis at the age of 3, Skip was blessed with a wonderful stepmother, Beatrice and their family grew to include a brother, the late Roy James Durfee and a sister, Dorothy Mae “Sis” (Pearce). As a boy, Skip traveled with his father and grandfather in the carnival where Skip learned how to ‘ride rides for free’ and entertain friends with jokes and stories. When he wasn’t traveling with the carnival, Skip spent his summers in Sebewaing, MI and shared countless stories of long summer days with his cousins, Ronny Martens, Gary McHalpine and Fred Martens. At 16 years old, Skip landed an apprenticeship at General Motors where he worked through the ranks beginning as an apprentice in machine repair up to his final role as Assistant Superintendent of Manufacturing and Engineering of the Manhattan Project, having 36.5 years with GM under his belt when he retired in 1987. As an early twenty-something Skip, who was an avid water skier purchased a Chris Craft boat and joined the Oakland County Boat Club where he met the love of his life, Mary Lou Fuller (passed on April 11, 2005) who won him over by throwing his screwdriver in the lake while he was working on his boat (cute story if you haven’t heard it!). Skip was drafted into the Navy in 1955 and served overseas on the USS Amphion AR-13 servicing ships of the 6th Fleet and visiting ports in France, Greece, Crete, Sicily and the Balearic Islands.. Worried that his sweetie Mary Lou, might be scooped up by another while he was out to sea, he instructed his stepmom to sell his beloved Chris Craft, purchase an engagement ring and propose to Mary Lou in his absence. She of course said yes and the two were married for 48 years until Mary Lou’s passing. Skip and Mary Lou, who shared a love for hunting, bought a 60-acre farm in Ortonville, MI where they lived for over 35 years. During that time, they welcomed daughter, Dawn Marie (Priebe) and the three lived a wonderful life filled with neighbors, friends, family, horses, golf, bowling, music, celebrations and lots of Skip’s jokes and stories! Skip and Mary Lou enjoyed some golf course living in Myrtle Beach, SC for a few years before moving to Oakhill, Florida in 1994 where they enjoyed boating on the intracoastal waterway while shrimping and dolphin watching. Following Mary Lou’s passing, Skip continued to live in Oakhill where he enjoyed annual visits from his brother-in-law and best friend, the late Bob Annis until 2021 when he relocated to Winter Haven, Florida to be closer to Dawn and her husband Blaine and enjoyed his final days working on projects and sitting at his dining room table gazing out at the 9th green of his golf community. Skip will always be best known for his quick wit, his keen engineering mind, his logic and reason and the ability to teach others how to build/fix absolutely almost anything!

Jim is survived by his daughter, Dawn and son-in-law Blaine (his adventure buddy), his beloved grandchildren, who he couldn’t love or be prouder of (‘hallelujah’ to you three); Alexander (Taylor) MacDonald (Papa’s forever best buddy), Jaclyn Priebe (Papa’s spiritual/musical compass), Bryan Priebe (Papa’s golf buddy and protector) and three great-grandchildren; Olivia, Milena and Garrett MacDonald (his extra joy). Jim is also survived by his sister Dorothy (Bill) Pearce and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and life-long friends.

A memorial service with final interment, will be held in the spring of 2023 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that you share your favorite Jim Durfee story for his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. Leaving a legacy was important to Skip so having your words to share with future generations is the best gift ever! If you were ever in Skip/Jim’s circle, thank you! He valued relationships above all else and loved life so very much and even more, with good people in it! Raise a glass and toast with his favorite saying, “Cheers to family and friends and those family members we still call friends”.

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A Memorial Tree was planted for James
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Steele's Family Funeral Services