James Arthur Bykonen, 80, of Gloucester, unexpectedly passed away on Feb. 15, 2017.
He was born in the farmhouse on Feb. 18, 1936 in Mt. View Township, North Dakota. He attended Sunday school and was confirmed at Finnish-American Lutheran National Church. Sunday school, confirmation and church service were all conducted in the Finnish language. But in grade school, the Finnish language was not allowed and they were forced to learn and speak English. For Jim, no doubt, this was easier as he had three older siblings.
He attended a country, one-room school—Lakeville number 19 through eighth grade. In high school, he played basketball and hockey and was active in the Future Farmers of America Club. He graduated from Rolla High, Rolla, North Dakota. He worked various jobs including at the local dry cleaners (iron shirts so well), on the electrical lines in the Iron Range, Minnesota, before enlisting in the U.S. Army in December 1957. He served until 1960 as a Finance Clerk while in U.S. and Korea, thus began his career in consumer finance for 37 years. One of his favorite memories of his time in Korea was taking leave and going to Tokyo to see the “Big City and Bright Lights.” While he was stationed at Fort Eustis, he met Agnes Grimstead from Gloucester, who was working there also. He was discharged from Army and they were married Dec. 17, 1960 at Bellamy UMC, Gloucester, and honeymooned in North Dakota so Agnes could finally meet Jim’s parents and many siblings.
In 1961 he started his career with Household Finance Corporation-HFC, in Newport News where he lived for 26 years. While working for HFC he was selected as a branch manager for the new Sherwood branch. At the branch, he was very successful, consistently achieving “top 10” status for profit among 45 offices in Virginia. During this time his two children were born, Arthur Adams and Marie Lynn.
He and Agnes became active members of Warwick Memorial UMC. He was president of the administrative board, church treasurer, vice president of Methodist Men and other committees. He always helped with the famous church “Fish Fries,” beloved by many in the community during the ’70s.
For leisure, he enjoyed golfing every week. He even shot a “hole in one” on the Gloucester Country Club Course. He loved to spend time with his children, loved maintaining his lawn and loved to plant a rather large garden full of vegetables and especially close to his heart were the pumpkins he grew that so thrilled his granddaughters.
Every other summer the family would travel to North Dakota to visit his family. He was then employed by Crestar (SunTrust Bank) as an Assistant Vice President in the Consumer Finance Group eventually working in Richmond. He retired in 1998 from all employment.
Jim and Agnes moved to Gloucester in 1991 after renovating her family’s home which was on many acres. He continued his love of yard work and gardening with an expanded yard. Once retired, he lovingly helped babysit his young granddaughters.
They became active members of Bellamy UMC, in Gloucester. He served as president of the United Methodist Men and held other servant leadership positions. He was president and an active member of the Gloucester Kiwanis Club from 1991-1997.
In January 1999, his wife Agnes suffered a stroke and died suddenly. Realizing that he didn’t want to be alone and feeling the stirrings of health problems he dated a Christian lady from Bellamy and married Elaine Ware in the fall of 1999. His faith grew with her and they enjoyed good times with his granddaughters nearby to dote on. In 2000 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He survived with it for 17 years.
Jim was able to live in his home for many years with the loving care of his children and the compassionate care of Bay Aging through its Gloucester Adult Day Break staff and caregivers. The family is so thankful to all who helped care for James. In the fall of 2014 he moved into Gloucester House where he lived until he went to heaven.
Even with Alzheimer’s he was always a gentleman even to the end. Taught by his mom to be loving and caring, he will be remembered by his family and sisters as a special dad and brother who brought kindness and joy to all who knew him.
Jim was also preceded in death by his parents, John and Celia Bykonen; and son-in-law, Doug Prochnow; by his brothers, Marvin Bykonen, Harland Bykonen, Jerome Bykonen, and Jonathan Bykonen, and one sister, Rosie Rodenbiker.
He is survived by his children, Arthur Adams Bykonen and Marie Bykonen Prochnow; granddaughters, Kathryn Ann Prochnow and Amanda Marie Prochnow; his sisters, Connie and Dennis Olson, Fargo, North Dakota, Carol and Wayne Wiken, Fargo, North Dakota, Mary and Leo Tschepen, Bisbee, North Dakota; his sister-in-law, Shelia Bykonen, Mankato, North Dakota, and many loving nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 from 6:30-8 p.m. Funeral services will be Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at 10 a.m. at Bellamy United Methodist Church. Burial will be at Bellamy Memorial Cemetery. A luncheon will follow at the church.
Memorial donations may be made to either the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Richmond Chapter, 4600 Cox Road, Suite 130, Glen Allen, Va. 23060 or to Bay Aging, P.O. Box 610, Urbanna, Va. 23175 (specify Adult Day Break).
Andrews Funeral Home, Gloucester, is in charge of arrangements.