James R. 'Jim' Starr

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010

Former Peninsula resident James R. "Jim" Starr of Fairbanks died on Saturday, June 26, 2010 in Fairbanks. He was 43.

Friends and acquaintances of Mr. Starr celebrated his life in an informal gathering on Saturday, July 10 in Fairbanks. Per his wishes, his final journey will take him to the peak of Mount Marathon in Seward, where his ashes will join those of his mother.

Mr. Starr was born Nov. 13, 1966, in Kenai, the youngest of three sons of Juanita Starr, a Kenai poet. He grew up in Kenai and Seward, earning top grades in school and excelling in football and wrestling. As a high school freshman in Seward, he hosted his own radio show. Mr. Starr graduated from Kenai Central High School in 1985. During his senior year, he was a heavyweight wrestler and placed in the top three at the state tournament. He was a National Merit Scholar finalist, and served as student body president.

Mr. Starr's family and friends remember him as a big man with a big heart.

His brother recalls him as a "strapping, big boy who always seemed to keep going." For several years after high school, Mr. Starr worked as a deckhand on a fishing trawler. In 1988, he traded life aboard ship for life riding a bicycle. He pedaled his way around Alaska, south through British Columbia to California, and east across the Lower 48. In 1989, he enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to study chemistry with an eye toward a career as a physical therapist. College put his goal of biking around the world on hold, but he continued bike-camping trips in Alaska.

"Jim never did anything by half measures if he had a genuine interest. An avid weightlifter, he built himself into a powerful, bear-like man who could bench press 450 pounds. He hit the gym nearly every day, keeping a grueling workout regime that included such unusual training methods as harnessing himself to wheelbarrow bucket full of concrete and dragging it. He enjoyed working out so much that he dreamed of one day opening his own gym," his family wrote. "Jim was imaginative and caring, a sometimes unconventional idealist who lived in a world of thoughts and hopes for a better future. With his razor-sharp mind, he was equally passionate about debating philosophy, concepts of Star Trek or talking about the weekend's football games."

Mr. Starr was employed the past several years for ABM Services at the University of Alaska. He suffered a heart attack two years ago but worked hard to recover his health and fitness. He was looking forward to more bicycle camping this summer, but during a gym workout, a second heart attack took his life.

Mr. Starr's family includes his brother, Dan Stirling of Seward, brother John Peifer and a sister, Desiree Bell. He is sorely missed by his many friends and neighbors.

Arrangements were made by Fairbanks Funeral Home.

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