James T. “Jim” “Bompa” Kaul

James T. Kaul

February 28, 1923 – July 6, 2022

KAUL—On July 6, 2022, James T. “Jim” “Bompa” Kaul, of Florence, was reunited with his wife Betty in heaven.

Jim was born Feb. 28, 1923, in Faribault, Minn., four hours after his twin brother John, the sixth of eight children of Edward and Eva Kaul. Before the twins came Charles, William (Billy), Thomas and Mary Ann (Sis). Edward (Schmaltz) and David (Butch) came after. They all preceded Jim in death.

As if they were meant to be together someday, when Jim was 4, he met a 2-year-old local girl named Betty Winkley while toddling on a stoop. They played together for a bit. They would meet again a few years later.

Jim and his twin brother lived the idyllic childhood in Faribault, all the while becoming known around the family and neighborhood for causing mischief at levels only obtainable while working as a two-man team.

When Jim was a teen, he and Betty again met by happenstance.

In the summer of 1940, the Winkleys had moved to St. Louis but some of Betty’s family remained in Faribault. She was visiting and planned to road trip with her cousin Rita to the University of Minnesota. The ladies were loaned a car on the condition they brought along a capable pair of hands in case of flat tire. Being a man of service even at an early age, Jim answered the call and during that car trip he noticed the little girl he played with when they were toddlers over a decade ago had grown into something special.

From that day forward, their relationship blossomed despite a courtship that was maintained mostly through the mail. Jim was working at a Lockheed airplane factory in California while Betty and her family moved to Texas.

“At one point, I got word that Betty was seeing another guy,” Jim recalled years later. “I knew I had to act quick. I realized I’d better make my move, so broke up with the girl I was dating in California and went to Texas and proposed. She accepted and the magic of our relationship began.”

Jim and Betty were married on May 27, 1944, after his completion of basic training for the US Army Air Corps. Six days later, he headed overseas, and it was right back to writing letters.

Jim was assigned to Air Transport Command and piloted the C-47 cargo plane, known as the “flying box car.” A highlight of his aviation career was the time he flew the personal belongings of General Douglas MacArthur when his headquarters were relocated from Australia to New Guinea.

After three and a half years of duty, Betty and Jim settled in Austin, Tex., where Jim found a career in sales.

Caron, Jim and Betty’s first born, came in 1946, followed by Sara in 1947, Mary in 1950, Laurie in 1953, James in 1959 and Krissy in 1963.

A succession of jobs in the household appliance business landed the Kauls in Omaha, Neb., in 1964, where Jim ran a wholesale appliance dealership.

Jim bought the business, called American Distributors, in 1974.

Jim ran the business as he lived his life, fair and ethically, and by the time he sold the business in 1986, he was distributing appliances to most towns across Nebraska.

The two raised their family with love and laughter. Jim found a special connection with each one of his children that continued regardless of distance and only grew stronger with time.

An equally strong connection came with his grandchildren. Even while spread out across the country, all his grandchildren admired him greatly and he managed to create strong, individual bonds with each of them throughout their lives.

Later in life, when great-grandchildren began to arrive, the bond continued and amazingly was just as strong.

After some unsuccessful attempts at retirement in Omaha, in 1990 Jim and Betty packed up and moved to the Pacific Northwest, where first three and eventually five of their children had made their lives.

Retirement finally stuck in Oregon and Betty and Jim found tranquility first on Siltcoos Lake south of Florence then in Florence proper, where their daughters Laurie, Mary and Sara all resided.

Their unconditional love and respect fueled Jim and Betty’s marriage for 57 years.

In 1992, Alzheimer's disease struck Betty. Jim’s devotion and unending love for his partner became the focus of the next nine years of his life as he lovingly guided and helped her through life as her primary caregiver. 

Betty passed away on March 27, 2001. With her passing, Jim refocused his life to become one of service to his community of Florence, Ore. He began delivering meals for Meals on Wheels. He took it upon himself to photograph, document and archive each Habitat for Humanity family's journey from approval to move into their new home.

After Florence’s hospital provided such wonderful care to his Betty during her final months and looking to stay busy after her passing, octogenarian Jim built and installed birdhouses outside the window of every patient room in the hospital, guaranteeing every patient would be serenaded by the local birds that frequent the feeders.

In 2009, the Florence Area Coordinating Council named Jim the Florence Volunteer of the Year.

His compassion and desire to help his fellow man was on display till the very end … that is unless you were playing Scrabble, Skip-Bo, Rummikub or any of his other favorite games. Very little compassion was evident while Jim was playing card and board games.

During his final years, through the efforts of his Florence daughters, grandson Peter and many professional caregivers, Jim was given round-the-clock loving and compassionate care, just like he gave Betty during her final years.

Jim is survived by five of his children and their spouses; Caron and Ed (LaTouf), Sara and Murph, Mary Holm and Bill (Robertson), James and Shelly, and Krissy Rytel. Laurie passed in 2013. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren and an ever increasing number of great-great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Aug. 3, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of the Dunes Catholic Church, 85060 Highway 101, south of Florence. Dessert along with coffee and tea will be served in the church hall after the service. Desesrt contributions would be appreciated by the family.

The memorial service will be streamed online for those that cannot attend and can be seen here: youtu.be/dcD_R4HEpYo .

Burns Riverside Chapel Florence Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Florence Habitat for Humanity or Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.