James A. Zeiset, also warmly known as JimmyZ or JZ, passed away peacefully, however unexpectedly in his sleep, on October 25th, 2020 at the age of 75.
JZ is survived by his wife, Amy Hatcher Zeiset; son Zachary and his wife, Robin NeJame; and grandson Ethan NeJame-Zeiset. In life, he also leaves his beautiful, wise, and strong mother, Dorothy Zeiset, who is 97 years old of Sarasota, FL; older sister Joanne (Ron Ross) Freed of Edmonton, Canada; and younger brother David and his wife Diana Zeiset of Santa Fe, NM. Jim had many nieces and nephews who he adored. JZ's many friends from all over the world, who were always up for a 'JZ adventure' remained always in his heart.
Jim was predeceased by his eldest son, David V. Zeiset; his father Alvin Zeiset; and youngest brother Danny Zeiset.
JZ was born in Goshen, Indiana on November 2nd, 1944. He was raised in Lancaster and Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He attended college in Kansas and received his degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Wichita State University. He eventually moved to Oklahoma to work as a civilian Engineer for the Air Force and Tinker Air Force Base. Jim was remarkably intelligent and loved to work with his hands. He loved to disassemble things and build new things just for fun which led him to owning a successful manufacturing business.
In the early - mid seventies, Jim found himself at a party talking to an interesting gentleman who sold plant containers for a living. These containers were tar paper pots. The plant pot manufacturer was scheduled to close and this guy needed a new product. As Jim told the story, the gentleman said to him, "You seem like a bright guy. What would you use to make a container that would hold wet dirt?" The gentleman invited Jim to have dinner at his home the following week and talk about this subject. Generally Jim wasn't too busy at work but that week he was directed to answer why the F-4 Phantom jet was falling out of the sky so he didn't think about plant containers. A week later he went to the gentleman's home for dinner and he asked Jim if he had come up with any ideas for the plant container quandary. JZ recalled the question but he wouldn't admit he had not thought about it. So he stood up, because that was how he thought best; looked around and saw a milk carton on the counter from which the milk was poured to make the White Russians. He pointed at the milk carton and said, "How about milk carton material? If it will hold milk it should hold wet dirt." The gentleman grabbed the carton, discarded the milk and said, "Honey, hold dinner." He and Jim drove up the road to see a farmer/client. This farmer ordered fifty thousand containers on the spot. It was now up to JZ to figure out how to make them; thus, the beginnings of his success. The rest is history. Jim was able to share with his son, Zachary, all of his tricks of the trade. After JZ's retirement, he would take visiting friends on tours of the factory - currently utilizing robotics - and beam with pride that his son was able to make the plant container manufacturing process faster and more efficient.
In 1976, Jim, his two sons, and their mother Kathleen, relocated to Colorado. They were looking for a life outside of suburbia. JZ was an adventurer by nature and it made sense to go somewhere completely new. They threw a dart at the map, which led them to the destination of Salida, CO. Upon his arrival, Jim became a member of the Elks Club because his community mattered to him. He has been a member for the past 44 years. They house they initially leased, was the house where the boys were raised. The property was within his budget, had the proper out buildings for his new business and the views were remarkable.
While leasing, the landlord decided to sell the property but Jim wasn't able to purchase it at this time. Luckily the new owners were interested in leasing to him as well. He made it his goal to be the next owner of the property the next time it was put on the market, completely aware the property purchase would strap the young family. He loved his view of the Mt. Shavano and the Sawatch Range. He spent 44 years living out his dreams in his very own paradise.
In 1977, Jim's younger brother Danny returned from visiting a beach in southern California. He spoke about seeing people with wings soaring above him in the sky and landing on the beach. JZ informed Danny that it was a 'hang glider'. Danny asked his big brother if he could build him one since Jim is an aeronautical engineer. Jim suggested reaching out to some people that actually manufacture them. After some research, they found a company in Colorado Springs, Leading Edge AirFoil (LEAF) that sells hang gliders. JZ and Danny bought and shared their first hang glider. Him became absolutely hooked on flying. JZ was one of the pioneers in the sport of hang gliding, representing the United States in World Hang Gliding competitions, as well as competing domestically. He was a Regional Director of the United States Hang Gliding/Paragliding Association (currently USHPA) representing pilots of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico for over 30 years. He served as President of the Association several times at different intervals. He also represented the US at the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) Hang Gliding and Paragliding Commission (CIVL). Jim helped ensure events happened worldwide. He was instrumental in the growth of the sport in the 1980s and 1990s. Jim found himself anywhere from Brazil to India in search of competitors and the best thermals. He really was a legend in this wildly adrenaline filled world.
JZ started what was then known as "the Green Team": a group of competition hang glider pilots who were type A athletes who loved launching themselves off mountains (foot launch), towing up by static line or aero towing; they were a wild bunch. The name "Green Team" was inspired by a poem written by Jim in sixth grade about his favorite color, green. He carried a copy of this poem in his wallet for years. If you knew Jim, you knew that likely a day did not go by without him wearing the color green.
In addition to pioneering the hang gliding sport, sponsoring a team of competitive pilots, and organizing hang gliding competitions, he also played a part in the sport of water gliding. This took him as far as Jounieh Bay, Lebanon just to share this sport with other parts of the world.
Jim had a passion for all forms of aviation. He held a pilot's license for powered aircraft and owned a twin engine Cessna for many years, an LS3 sailplane for a few years and a Phoenix motor glider. Although the sports took a toll on his human body, he never let the fused body parts stop him from soaring the skies.
A Celebration of Life will take place when the state of the world will allow it. We will raise our glasses and we will honor this man that was truly larger than life. In lieu of flowers, just help someone out less fortunate than you. Buy them a coffee, give them a ride, take them fishing, provide them with a shelter, mentor them, encourage them, believe in them. Continue his legacy...work hard, play harder. As JZ would say, "punch it, I know the road" so, trust. "Make it up as you go," you never know where it will lead you and that is part of the adventure.
His family is touched by the words shared on Facebook. They are grateful for the cards, meals, stories, and outpouring of love.
Jim is flying with the moon and the stars. As a friend shared, the sky is no longer the limit, JZ. Have an awesome transition to the ultimate flight, Grandpa.
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