James Rothstein

James Vernon Rothstein was born to Lucy and James Rothstein Sept. 7, 1939, in Aberdeen, S.D. He grew up in Mobridge, S.D., and graduated from high school there in 1958.  Unsure of what to do after graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy and remained enlisted until 1962. During those years he “tried to stay out of trouble and kept the peace.”

After the Navy, he found himself bouncing around from job to job, again not sure what to do with himself. He ended up in Minneapolis, Minn., living with his younger brother, Michael. It was there he drove a delivery truck until returning to Mobridge.

In 1963, he married Carol and that marriage produced four children: James, Elizabeth, Mary and John. 

Jim ventured to Rapid City, S.D., where he would then call his home, while working for JobCorps in Nemo. He was a dorm supervisor for five years, responsible for more than 50 corpsman in his dorm.  The camp was a federal correctional facility; many of the corpsman were from the deep south and this was their chance at rehabilitation. During the day, they performed manual labor in the U.S. Forest Service and Jim was there to oversee the hours they spent at the dorms. Eventually, Jim assigned managers within his dorm and the men were then managing themselves. He was once reprimanded for doing the right thing, something Jim attempted to do in every situation no matter whether he knew you or not.

“He stood up for everyone, he didn’t care who you were,” said his partner of 32 years, Joanie. For a time, he was a dental tech in Rapid City, but soon found himself back in Mobridge painting and more.  Eventually, this business would span 40 years and included everything from building decks to hanging drywall to framing houses and general construction.  

Jim moved to Custer, S.D., in 1981 and lived there ever since. He worked at YFC for three years and a brief stint at a convenience store in town and that is where he and Joanie met.   It was also around this time Jim lost his younger brother, Michael, to brain cancer. This was the impetus for Jim’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. 

Right around 2000-01, a childhood dream of Jim’s was realized.  He recalls his father gathering the family into the car one day when Jim was just a toddler.  They drove to a pasture where buffalo calves were penned.  Jim was fascinated and that never dwindled.  Tall Grass Buffalo was borne out of that early fascination. It started with a couple of buffalo calves and grew from there; at its height, Jim’s herd was more than 35. Jim used every part of the animal he could: there was jerky, snack sticks, summer sausage, fresh cuts like steaks, burgers and roasts; soap and lotion were made from the tallow; fly swatters were made from the tails; and Jim even boiled, power-washed, dried, bleached and hired someone to paint skulls to be sold. All the meat was 100 percent grassfed.

The first six years of the operation business increased 24 percent every year.  Jim thought that was pretty good. Fall was very busy, Joanie said.  She and Jim attended “all the shows” with their jerky and other cured buffalo products.  It was a lot of work, but she and Jim did it together and they had fun.

Tall Grass was even featured in an issue of Cooking Light Magazine.  Jim’s interest in food increased and he was in agreement with others who maintained our diets are killing us. His interests grew from offering just the buffalo products to drastically decreasing our dependency on external organizations and becoming self-reliant in as many ways as possible. He started a corporation, JEM Enterprise, Inc., that served as the umbrella corporation for many of these ideas.  Jim firmly believed the importance of educating the public on everything. It was this, he believed, that could transform lives.

Jim was also a staunch supporter of law enforcement. His grandfather was chief of Police in Aberdeen, S.D., in the 1930s and 40s.

Jim died Aug. 31, 2019. He was 80. 

He is survived by his brothers, John (Vicki) of Mobridge and David of Brandon, S.D.; son, James of Medford, Ore.; daughters, Beth, Mary and son, John all of the Phoenix, Ariz., area; eight grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life will be held at noon, Saturday, Sept. 21 at Custer VFW.

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