James Frank Karpowitz passed away into his loving Heavenly Father’s arms on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
He was born February 21, 1952, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to goodly parents Frank Bruno Karpowitz and Alice Josephine Hanks during the snowiest winter on record.
Jim grew up in Salt Lake City with his four brothers: Dennis, Kim, Gary, and Dave. From an early age, he learned the value of hard work and dedication to home and family. He spent endless hours playing and exploring the open spaces nearby his childhood home and while visiting his grandparents. Every corner of his imagination was utilized to embark on grand childhood adventures. This fostered a love of the great outdoors that became ingrained into his hobbies, his career, and his testimony of the Earth and its creations great and small. Ever the naturalist, he curated a child’s version of a biology lab at home with tadpoles, insects, plants, and a microscope to inspect all. He spent many years at the family cabin in Lamb’s Canyon surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins; then later with siblings, their spouses, nieces, nephews, his wife and his own children. He guided explorations, directed campfire gatherings, and told the most fantastic stories.
His love of the outdoors led him to be an avid sportsman. Many family trips revolved around fishing from the family boat with his parents and brothers. He enjoyed participating in and attending sporting events as well. Snow skiing and baseball were easily his favorites. However, an accident at the age of 13 broke both of his legs and required a modification of his physical activities. His father redirected him to interests that would not be limited by the rehabilitation of his broken legs and gifted him his first shotgun. The rest is history. His legs fully recovered, and he could not get enough of hunting rabbits, doves, pheasants, geese, and ducks. Big game hunts would become an annual tradition in the years to come. He taught his children to be responsible stewards of the Earth and took them hunting and fishing frequently. Sometimes the outings were with other people, but he often used this time to develop special one-on-one relationships with each of his children. These outings were not limited to hunting and fishing. Wildlife/bird watching and plant identification were also lifelong passions.
Jim started scouting at the age of 11. He eventually earned his Lifesaving Merit Badge and Eagle Scout Award at the age of 15 after strengthening his legs swimming, thousands of mosquito bites, and many miles on wooded trails in the northern United States and Canada. He attributes the scouting program and its leaders for helping him make good life decisions and become more Christlike. During college he worked for the Boys Scouts of America at Camp Steiner in the High Uinta Mountains. He stayed involved in the scouting program throughout his adult life and was very proud of his son Dan for receiving his Eagle Scout Award as well.
Education was highly valued by Jim. He was a lifelong curious, studious learner. Although biology was always his favorite subject, he was also partial to music, woodworking, and history. All those interests extended beyond the classroom. He played the bass fiddle in his youth and had a soft spot for country and classical music as well as musicals. He naturally took to working with his hands and was an excellent handyman. He studied world history, United States history, and most notably family history. He compiled a large amount of historical and personal information about both sides of his family tree, focusing on German, Scandinavian, English, and Scottish roots. He recently traveled to England and Scotland with his wife and they were able to visit family and historical sites of their ancestors, developing a deeper love of those people and their culture.
Prior to attending college, he was called to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Ontario-Quebec Mission. His testimony burned brightly during his missionary service and grew with increasing light each passing year. After his mission, he attended both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University (BYU), graduating from BYU with a B.S. in Zoology and a M.S. in Wildlife and Range Resources. In the middle of his college experience, he spent a summer never to be forgotten in Quebec, Canada at the Kipawa River Lodge. While living nearly akin to a mountain man, he had a good deal of time for reflection. It was during this time he solidified his goals for a wife and family and knew he would pursue an exciting and interesting outdoor job.
Jim officially began his 34-year career with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) in 1978 studying bobcats while completing his Master’s Degree at BYU. He spent the majority of his career as a research biologist, first in the Uintah Basin for three years and then as the Regional Game Manager in Price, Utah for 14 years. Both of these positions focused on managing mule deer, elk, bear, bighorn sheep, bison, pronghorn, wild turkey, and moose populations. He had a particular fondness for the bighorn sheep population in the state of Utah and led transplant and restoration programs to bolster and reintroduce bighorn sheep to their native habitats across the state. Jim spent two years as the Once-in-a-Lifetime Species Coordinator and then three years as the Big Game Species Coordinator. He ended his career as the Director of the Utah DWR in 2012 after serving over seven and a half years in that leadership position.
As Director of the Utah DWR, he worked under two governors: Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Gary Herbert. He successfully implemented DWR objectives with the help of leadership teams and employee committees. This position required him to also work with the state legislature to achieve department goals. He was proud of the Watershed Restoration Initiative that improved over a million acres of habitat during the time he was director. He was appointed a member of the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission by two presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama. So if you spot a herd of bighorn sheep, harvest a massive bull elk or have an excellent fishing trip with your family, his career’s work contributed considerably to these amazing wild places and things.
Although Jim was passionate about his education and career, his life completely revolved around his family. On April 28, 1978, he married his sweetheart Nancy Elaine Ford in the Salt Lake Temple for time and all eternity. He always felt lucky to be married to such a beautiful and worthy woman. His joy was further fulfilled by his three children Dan, Keri, and Jamie, and completed with his grandchildren: Sophie, Jonas, Madison, Mackay, Elliot, and Emmitt. He gave equal love to his children’s spouses. He supported them in their individual interests and academic pursuits. His children all graduated high school and college with high honors and advanced degrees.
He cherished holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. Honoring old traditions and establishing new traditions with his wife and children was very important to him. Valentine’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Pioneer Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were celebrated in good measure. He was meticulous about selecting gifts and finding the perfect Christmas tree. On birthdays, he made sure each of his children felt special and often recounted stories of their births. Family vacations were of utmost importance. They were planned well in advance and packed full of activities whether it was a day hike, camping trip, Disney vacation, drive across Alaska, Yellowstone excursion, visit to a historical site, or a tour of the Northeast coast. As in his youth, a family boat provided countless fishing and waterskiing trips. Adventures were never in short supply when Jim was around, and he made them extra fun with his wit and humor.
The greatest gift Jim left his family was his steadfast devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught Gospel Doctrine classes for many years, served as a stake high counselor, bishopric counselor, and as a bishop. He testified frequently that “the earth and all things upon the face of it … do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). He knew with absolute surety that the gospel was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and continues to be guided by modern prophets. Above all else, he knew that Jesus was the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Jim is survived by his wife Nancy, his three children Dan (Rachael) Karpowitz, Keri (Bryant) Low, and Jamie (Jack “Higgy”) Karera, and his grandchildren Sophie, Madison, Jonas, Mackay, Elliot, and Emmitt. He is preceded in death by his parents Frank and Alice Karpowitz.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, November 27, 2020, at 1:00 pm at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, 3401 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City. Masks and social distancing of family groups required. The graveside service will be live streamed via a Zoom link. Join live Zoom broadcast here:
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