James William Keyes | 1952-2020


It’s hard to believe a year has flown by since an aggressive form of ALS took Jim’s beautiful life. He will be forever remembered and missed by his wife Michele and his children, Jonathan, Mykal, and Daniel, his niece Krystal Fisher, nephew Chance Keyes, and a wide circle of friends. Jim was pre-deceased by his parents Charles Richard Keyes and Geneva Thornburg Keyes and brother Bruce Keyes.

He graduated from Newport High School in 1970 and then the University of Washington. During his career as a CPA he established a very busy and thriving tax practice. Jim had two nicknames amongst his peers: Tax God and Trivia King. As one long time friend and peer stated: “having him to call on was so much better than researching a tax question, music trivia, or baseball statistic! He was rarely stumped and a master at resolving issues. Those who worked with him would often say: “go to the source (Jim)” for the correct course of action. He even won the Washington State Gold Medal (top score) when he took the CPA exam. He was the best at what he did.” This latter statement is true for everything he did. Jim was loved and highly respected by his many clients who also considered him a great friend. Some of them have said he had the highest morals and was the most honest of anyone they’d ever met.

His personal life was just as rich as his professional career. Without exception he put his family, friends, and clients before himself. He loved living on Orcas Island. During his life on the island he was a great supporter of his kids’ sports, Treasurer and Investment Advisory Committee member of the Orcas Island Community Foundation for several years, and kept in shape at the Athletic Club that was conveniently located downstairs from his office.

A climbing group was formed among his wide circle of friends in the late ‘80s. Their local climbs (including many Mt. Rainier ascents) prepared them for several international ones that took them to Russia, Tanzania, central Europe, Mexico, and Ecuador. The above photograph was taken on top of Mt. Shuksan. Though dated it captures his untarnishable and happy spirit. He was so proud of that time in his life. Their international climbing guide thought of Jim as a great asset to any group he led because of his climbing strength and his unique even-keeled personality that was unencumbered by outside irrelevant forces. Jim’s endurance and general sense of calm served him in every facet of his life. It was a pleasure to be in his company.

He traded in his trusty 10-key and computer for his hiking boots when his disease developed to the point where could no longer serve his clients. It’s a blessing that his legs and his lungs worked until the end as it allowed him to live the remainder of his life by hiking 6-7 miles every day. Jim’s quality of life definition did not include hospitals or doctors or any other recommended treatments. His hiking was his therapy. He embraced all of his hiking with the same commitment and intensity as with anything he set his mind to in life in spite of the developing weakness caused by the disease. Even at the very end during his last few weeks he hiked up to a mile per day short of the last few days of life. He was truly unstoppable.

When Jim realized his condition was terminal we reached out to our local hospice program for their priceless support months before he passed away. Their goal of supporting his family allowed him to live the rest of his life on his terms. Without getting in his way they put him in charge of his life until the very end. It didn’t matter how far Jim strayed as he literally walked to his own beat surrounded by family and community support that was truly amazing.

All who knew Jim were well aware of how important his kids’ sports programs were. He proudly assisted the coaches on the softball and baseball fields every year and attended their other sports games. In honor of Jim’s unconditional support of the Orcas Island School District’s athletic program a donation fund has been set up in his name with our Orcas Island Community Foundation for those who may be interested in making a gift in his name: