James Alban Kimpell, 57, formerly of Fort Dodge and Callender, died Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Des Moines, where friends gathered for days by his hospice bed to comfort him and share memories.
The son of Larry and Marge Klaus Kimpell, Jim was born Jan. 18, 1964, one of eight children. A graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant on Dec. 21, 1993. He earned designations as a Geronimo Arctic Expert at Fort Wainwright in Alaska and a Jungle Expert at Fort Sherman in Panama, as well as medals and citations for conduct, achievement and leadership. He told many stories about the three years he served in the U.S. Army Garrison at Schweinfurt, Germany. Jim was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, involved in research and development, when the Bradley he was riding in was struck by an errant tank, sending him to Walter Reed Military Medical Center with serious injuries and effectively ending his Army career.
Jim moved back to Fort Dodge from South Carolina following his divorce from Karla – the mother of his son – and worked at a local gypsum mill. But his passion was American history and historical re-enacting. He was a respected historic tinsmith and amassed one of the country’s largest collections of pre-20th century tinsmithing tools. He was active in an online tinsmithing group and brought that group’s annual meeting, the Convergence, to Fort Dodge. Jim served as president of the North American Voyageurs Council for seven years and was proprietor of Highhorse Trading Co., which sold merchandise to re-enactors throughout the country, both online and at historic rendezvous and trade fair sites. He was a former director of the Fort Museum.
Jim’s education included training at Iowa Central Community College as an electronics technician and a marketing degree from Upper Iowa University.
One of his best friends and camping companions was his dog, Soup, who he rescued as a stray pup and loved for 14 years.
Jim was a member of Makowian, a Native American hobbyist group, and made lifelong friends from that association. The group still occasionally meets at Deception Hollow, a place that was always spiritual and special to him.
Jim could master any skill he attempted and was accomplished in diverse undertakings, ranging from carving wood duck decoys and replicating Plains Indians parflesh bags to building livestock fencing and baking artisan bread. A collector of many things, he loved a bargain and was an avid buyer at auctions and estate sales.
Jim loved to be near or on the water, whether it was the Des Moines River that he grew up beside in Bobtown or sailing in a Mackinaw boat on Lake Superior. When he lived on the East Coast, he liked to take his fishing boat out into the Chesapeake Bay to catch his dinner.
Smart and funny, Jim was a great teller of tales – some of them were even true.
For years, the farmhouse Jim shared with companion Barbara served as a gathering place for friends from varied walks of life, who ate meals around a massive handmade wooden table that Jim commissioned, specifically for that dining room.
Survivors include his son, Christopher Kimpell, of Pelzer, South Carolina.
Jim was cremated and his ashes will be scattered in some of the locations that he loved.
No formal services are scheduled at this time.
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