In his 73 years, Jim Sursely personally touched the lives of thousands of veterans, their family members and survivors. And through his dedicated service, he inspired millions.
A native of Rochester, Minnesota, Jim enlisted in the Army in 1966. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam and served with the Americal Division’s 17th Armored Cavalry. During a combat mission in January 1969, his life was forever changed when an enemy landmine claimed his legs above the knee and left arm above his elbow. Following emergency helicopter evacuation to the 95th Evacuation Hospital at Da Nang, hospitalization in Japan, and extensive recuperation at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Colorado, he was medically retired.
Jim returned to Rochester and attended college before moving to Florida where he earned his Associate of Science degree from Seminole Community College. In 1977, he began his career in real estate. At the time of his passing, he was one of that industry’s most successful professionals in his community in Florida. In 1982, he connected with the love of his life, Jeannie Thompson. They married in 1985. He was a father of five and a grandfather of 12, two of whom, Brianna and Clara, he was helping to raise at the time of his passing.
The same year he started his real estate career, Jim began a new mission when he joined DAV (Disabled American Veterans). He rose through both the chapter and department ranks. He was named DAV’s 1993 Disabled Veteran of the Year and the 2001 DAV Freedom Award recipient at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado.
In 2004, at the DAV & Auxiliary National Convention in Reno, Nevada, Jim was unanimously elected national commander by his fellow veterans.
A close friend of actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise, Jim helped establish DAV’s partnership with Boulder Crest Retreats and the Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE Program in 2015. Through this initiative and outdoor sports, Jim and many others have mentored and touched the lives of hundreds of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That same year, Sursely was elected to the board of directors of the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. He has been featured prominently in DAV public service announcements and through other outreach initiatives.
Jim was a proud life member of Chapter 16 and Auxiliary Unit 16 in Orlando, Florida. He was preceded in death by his son, Jimi, infant daughter Mary, mother Genevieve Hellen Sursely and father Edward James Sursely, a WWII veteran of the Army Air Corps. In addition to his loving wife Jeannie, he is survived by sons Dax (Marcia) of Billings, Montana, and Ryan of Apopka; daughter Mary (Robert) Sharkey, an Army spouse; sisters Sandy (Dave) Gordon of Gig Harbor, Washington and Diana (Ron) Hollihan of Rochester, Minnesota; and brother Richard (Michele) Sursely of Rochester.
To make a donation in Jim's Honor please visit our memorial page.
“Jim Sursely was an inspiration to all of us who are involved in DAV’s mission. He and his family gave so much to support our cause and he had a special way of connecting people in ways that benefited all veterans. He was a hero and he will be remembered for all he did over the course of his lifetime." - Dan Clasgens
“Jim was one of the most charismatic and authentic people in the entire veterans community. Wherever he went, he was revered. He drew people to our cause and dedicated his time and effort to representing those who served with dignity and honor. We’ve lost a great human, but the lessons he taught us all and the work he inspired will be continued.” - Doreen Briones
"Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends."
"Thinking of you, wishing you hope in the midst of sorrow, comfort in the midst of pain." - Brenda Bezold
"Celebrating the life of an amazing man and mourning his passing with you. I am praying for your family." - Leslie Thomas
"A true hero who will be missed by all." - Jack Johnson
"Jim Sursely was the epitome of a great man, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Friend, Businessman and Soldier. He was respected and admired by all who knew him. His Smile, Laughter and Sense of Humor just made everyone near him feel better. He was an extraordinary DAV Officer having served his fellow veterans at every level! We thank you Jeannie and the entire Sursely family for sharing Jim with us. We know as his fellow veterans we benefited the greatest!" - Wally Tyson
"Jim was the guy who never ever failed to stop and talk with someone no matter where or when. He was a role model for all disabled veterans. I for one, will miss those memorable opportunities...God bless and watch over the Sursely family...RIP my friend and fellow PNC." - Richard E Marbes
"Our deepest sympathy to the family. May he rest in peace." - Dennis Nixon
"Jim was an inspiration to all. His smile was ever present and he lit up the room when he entered. Deepest sympathy and condolences. Godspeed Jim." - Susan Loth
"A great friend who will be missed by all. Our deepest sympathy to the Sursely family." - Dennis & Donna Joyner
"Jim was a great friend and business associate for more than 40 years. In that period of time you get to know a little about a person. He was dedicated to his country, devoted to his family and a good friend to many. He was an excellent common sense business man and was always fair and honest with people. He put everyone at ease and made everything seem logical and easy. He had strong beliefs as to what was right and wrong and a no nonsense attitude about his beliefs. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and also his many friends who will miss him terribly. A huge loss for us all." - Peggy Thomas
"From all of us at Boulder Crest Foundation, we send our deepest gratitude and condolences for Jim and his family. You will forever be in our hearts and prayers. Jim was a great leader, mentor, and friend to many. He was the epitome of Posttraumatic Growth and a kind soul with compassion and love for his fellow warriors and humankind as a whole. Many of us knew Jim in a way that few have the honor to know others. He has blessed our lives in a way we cannot repay. He will be dearly missed." - Lynnette Swanson
"My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. RiP Jim" - Stephanie Stewart
"Remembering Earl and Jim just looking at property around town. They both enjoyed the possibilities of land - and of course a profit!" - Floride Neslon