Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

James Walter Stonecipher

James Walter Stonecipher, 69, departed on Friday, January 5, 2024 at his home near Naalehu, Hawaii. He is survived by his dear Luke (Kristen) Pensula and their daughter Kailani JoAnn; his sister Julie Yokel (Jerry); nieces, Angela Huntsman (Eric) and Emily Kelty (Spencer); his nephew, Gabriel DeLong (Laurel); great nieces Haley and Mahala Huntsman, and Aliyah and Lydia Kelty; great nephew, Isaiah Kelty; and his cousin, Joy Broom Leisure (Jerry); as well as dear friends and many other extended family members. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, his aunt, Roberta (Stonecipher) Broom, his cousin Jeffery Broom, his grandparents, Walter Thomas and Ida Anne (Hinshaw) Hamilton and James David and Helen (Singer) Stonecipher.

James was born on May 6, 1954 in Walla Walla, Wash. to James Alvord Stonecipher and Joan (Hamilton) Stonecipher. He attended Waitsburg Elementary School and Walla Walla High School, graduating in 1972. He was briefly married. He attended Western Washington State College where he was an understudy of Dr. Edward LaBounty in music composition. He transferred to The Evergreen State College, graduating in 1979 with a BA in Media and Composition. During his time at Evergreen he was a teaching assistant of Advanced Audio and Multi-Track Composition, a music instructor at Washington Retreat for Gifted Art Students in Port Angeles, WA and a private music instructor of Guitar Theory and Application in classical, folk and rock genres, with students ranging from beginner to advanced. He left college with a long list of published compositions including one symphony for which he wrote the complete notation.

He was affiliated with and a Northwest Representative for Random Radar Records, Silver Springs, Md., and was Manager and Co-owner of Rogue Enterprises, sound reinforcement, remote and studio recording. He was Founder and Co-producer of "Anonymous" contemporary rock band. He was Co-director of music for the stage play, "It's Only Money," at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Founder, Coordinator and Co-composer for the progressive rock group, CONCH. He also did solo performances as university, gallery and club musician.

In 1983 James composed the soundtrack for an animated laser show at Stone Mountain Park in the state of Georgia. He composed sound tracks for commercial television with clients from California, Idaho, Washington, New York and Switzerland. His work was best known in the Seattle, WA area in the early 1980s. His composition and recording work contributed to various projects that earned The Silver Screen Award, The Classics Award and The Gold Award at the US Industrial Film and Video Festival recognizing outstanding achievements in industrial and corporate film making. He described himself to potential clients as, "a fully rounded composer who is able to construct music efficiently in any style."

James landed one of his dream jobs, acquiring a contract with National Geographic to do underwater sound recording as part of a research study. He purchased a boat along with a financial partner. James gathered a crew and was ready to sail, when he received word that he was needed in Hawaii. He chose to go to the aid of a widow and her son. James directed the boat and crew to pick him up in Hawaii on their way to the project location. The boat never came. As it turned out, the investment partner for the project was a criminal who intended James and the crew harm. Though it took him in a different trajectory, he never regretted his choice to go to Hawaii. It probably saved his life and was his introduction to his dear, Luke.

James moved to Hawaii in 1986. There, he toured with Keiko Bonk, co-founder of the Hawaii Green Party, as a member of the band, The Monkey Wrench Gang. He also worked to restore the theater in Naalehu, and helped establish KNAC, 90.9 FM, Hawaiian Sovereign Radio Station. The station was later shut down by the FCC following a licensing issue.

His family remember James as a profoundly gifted, creative and passionate man. He was an artist with all of his soul, beginning with his detailed, original drawings as a child, that delighted and surprised with their twists of unexpected originality. His ability to pick up musical instruments and his tenacity to learn led him to his professional achievements. The summer of his sophomore year in high school, knowing only how to play the drums, he took an acoustic guitar up to the lookout tower where he spent the summer working for the US Forest Service. When he came home that fall, he could play proficiently, and he never stopped until his declining years when he suffered a stroke that prohibited him from playing. He designed and built his first studio building in Olympia, WA from salvaged lumber. It is still a well known building among many locals. He carved his first electric guitar, complete with a mother of pearl inlay of a conch shell in honor of his band, CONCH. When he painted a building, he was known to situate a canvas below. When paint inevitably dripped from his brush, he would scurry down the ladder to add strokes to the developing work of art below. He was a good mechanic, plumber, electrician, and sea going fisherman. His final musical project in Hawaii involved the gathering of potentially sonorous objects from the dump to construct an elaborate, internally miked instrument that filled his entire living space to use in the recording of his last composition, intended to be the soundtrack to a movie, based on his father's WWII Diary, about his father's war experience. He was unable to complete the project, but he compiled huge amounts of soundtrack material in his efforts. It was his final passion to honor his father.

A private family graveside memorial will be held at a future date.


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