James Harry Donley

James Harry Donley

March 27, 1925 – Feb. 14, 2021

James Harry Donley of Cowley passed away at his home on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. He was born in Midwest, Wyo., a little town just north of Casper, on March 27, 1925, to Harry Emmet and Marion Daubenspeck Donley. Jim had three sisters and one brother, Kathryn “Kat,” Jeanette, Harriett and Gary.

He lived there until he was 2 years old. His family then moved to Ferdig, Toole County, Mont., which was located north of Shelby and about 15 miles south of the Canadian border, for three years, then moved to Winston, a little town south of Helena. 

Jim started the first grade in Winston. He remembered riding to school in a horse and buggy with a blanket over him. His family then moved back to Ferdig and then finally to Cowley. He started fifth grade in Cowley and finished high school in 1943. Jim met his wife, Phyllis Lillian Gall, in 1959, and they were married January 23, 1960. Jim and
Phyllis had been married for 61 years.

Jim loved the North Big Horn Basin and Cowley. He was a longtime member of the Cowley Cemetery Board. For years Jim and Phyl volunteered to deliver meals for seniors. He also served on the board for the Senior Citizens Center and the Cowley Town Council. He was a business partner for Nicholls & Lewis (Lovell Concrete) until he retired 30 years ago. He farmed and ranched; cattle and horses were important to him. Every day, right to the end, he would check and compare market prices for beef in the Billings Gazette. 

He was an avid reader, especially western and historical novels. He had read all of the Louis L’Amour series. Jim wrote in his journal every single day. He could look it up: first snow, corn planted, first ear picked, temperature on your birthday, he had it all recorded. Additionally, Jim and Phyl really enjoyed travelling around the United States. Every year it was a different destination, bus tours, car travel, new places, new people, etc., and he had many fond memories of and appreciation for this great land. Don’t forget all those trips with Rodney Crosby Sr. around the Basin as well as to the Wyoming ball games. Go Pokes!

For the past 25 years Jim and Phyl were often affectionately recognized as “Grandpa and Grandma Donley.”  Every school day, neighborhood children skip and laugh up their walk, knock on the door for a treat (usually a lollipop) and then giggle and talk as they wave and head for home. If you’re an adult, just pull up. You can talk forever, if’n you’re a mind to.

Jim always loved to work. It is just what he did, and after he retired Jim loved to work outside every single day that he was home. He was always working on a wood project, picture frames, jewelry boxes, shelves, magazine racks, mailboxes, dressers, nightstands, etc. Until he was 91ish he worked in his woodshop, at which time he decided he was a liability with the tools. He then worked in the garden every day until this last year. He also enjoyed working in the yard. Jim and Phyl were great gardeners and were famous for “Cowley” corn  and their rhubarb patch, peonies and their flower beds and pots. It is a better world because of them. Thank you.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents and all his siblings. His whole family is buried in
the Cowley Cemetery, and Jim will be laid to rest there, also.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. at the Cowley
LDS Chapel.