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Michael James Kuzma

September 28, 1946 - October 9, 2017

Michael James Kuzma of Ruch, Oregon passed away Monday, October 9, 2017. He left this world in the same way he lived: peaceful, with strength, and surrounded by people who loved him.

Born in Los Angeles, California to Edna and Edward Kuzma, he was the eldest of four. Survived by siblings Patricia, Kathleen, and Joseph, he was a supportive and caring older brother. Growing up, Michael developed a strong sense of craftsmanship by spending time in his father’s workshop, where his father Eddie built renowned Indy race cars.

After graduating from Junipero Serra High School in 1964, Michael moved to Vancouver, Washington where he lived with his grandmother, Elsie, and attended Clark College. With his draft-card number approaching, in 1967 Michael enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He initially served on the U.S.S. Coral Sea off the coast of Vietnam, then transferred to NATTC in Lakehurst, New Jersey where “Kuzma attacked his studies with enthusiasm and zeal,” according to his lieutenant commander. He was ultimately stationed as a flight services weather observer at U.S. Fleet Weather Central in Rota, Spain.

While in the service, Mike befriended James Baxter of Weaverville, Calif. In the years following his service, Mike reunited with Jim and his wife, JoAnn, and in 1973 married Jim’s little sister, Gail Baxter. In the early ‘70s the four lived together in Eureka, Calif. and attended Humboldt State University, where Mike earned a degree in geography with an emphasis in cartography.

Mike and Gail relocated from Humboldt to the Applegate Valley in 1976, where they put down roots in Ruch. Constant themes in Mike’s career and life were a love of nature and environmental stewardship. Over the years he worked as a forestry technician, cartographer, and civil engineer technician. His career culminated in over 27 years of federal service between the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, in addition to his time with Allan Cartography of Medford.

In his personal life, hiking, camping, woodcutting, tobogganing, reading maps, his extensive vinyl collection, and long drives in the pickup were things he enjoyed sharing with family and friends. He was a devoted organic gardener, avid recycler, microbrew and soccer enthusiast, and for many years an active community member as a volunteer firefighter and Battalion Chief for Applegate Valley Fire District #9.

He is survived by his wife, Gail; daughter, Michelle; son, Tim; aforementioned siblings; and the hundreds of maps and trails that he helped to develop and maintain for Southern Oregon. Rogue Valley Funeral Alternatives will be announcing memorial and celebration of life services.

Michael James Kuzma