James W. Villar

REPUBLIC, MI – James W. Villar passed away peacefully at home surrounded by the loving care of his family and Lake Superior Hospice on Monday, February 12, 2018.

James was one of fraternal twins born to James Travis and Hertha (Fremuth) Villar in Bronx, NY, on July 25, 1930. He graduated from Briarcliff Manor High School in 1948. That fall he entered Michigan State University with a partial scholarship in boxing. Although he maintained a life-long interest in sports, while at Michigan State he majored in Geology, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1952.

The Korean Conflict was on and instead of pursuing a career in his field of study, James entered the Marine Corp Officer’s Candidate School in Quantico, VA. That same year he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corp. While still at Quantico, he took Advanced Infantry Training. From there he went to Fort Sill, OK, for artillery training and then on to Camp Pendleton, CA, where he embarked for Korea in 1953. In Korea he was an Artillery Forward Observer and Battalion Liaison Officer with the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant before being discharged from the service Dec. 5, 1954.

James returned to Michigan State as a graduate student in January of 1955, furthering his studies in Geology. He was elected President of Earth Science Honorary. In June of 1956 he received a Master’s Degree in Geology with a minor in Mathematics. He began employment with Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company as a Geologist for the new properties under development utilizing low grade iron formation, a pioneering development.

James returned to Michigan State in the fall of 1958 to begin work on his Doctorate in Geology and completed all the requirements for a Doctorate with the exception of his dissertation. That would happen sometime later, after an interruption that took him in a very different direction. James served as a Project Supervisor for Cliffs’ exploration activities in Chile, Peru, and Columbia between the years 1960-62.

Back in Michigan he was promoted to Assistant Chief Metallurgist in 1964, while finding time to complete his Doctorate in Geology. In 1966 he was promoted to Assistant Manager of Research and Development, and in 1968 to Manager. It was during this period that he embarked on the most significant challenge of his career, developing a flowsheet for the Tilden Mine and its non-magnetic iron ore, hematite. His efforts came to fruition in the startup of Tilden in 1974.

James was promoted to General Manager of Research and Development in 1977 and transferred to the Cleveland corporate office. In 1981 he was named Vice-President of Research and Development and made Senior Vice-President of Technical in 1987.

His professional affiliations included a fellowship in the Geological Society of America, a position on the Atomic Industrial Forum, a member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, a Director on the Board of the First National Bank and Trust Co. of Ishpeming, and Director on the boards of Upper Peninsula Generating Co. and International Iron Ores.

He retired from Cliffs on January 30, 1992.

James and wife Mary Ann spent winters in Orange Beach, AL, for many years following retirement and before moving to Marquette, MI. All of their summers were spent in a log home they built on Chief Lake, southwest of Republic. It was there they called home and where they enjoyed many years of family visitations.

James took great pride in his service as a Marine. He was an avid fisherman and hunter who in his later years exchanged his firearms for a camera in order to shoot wildlife. He maintained a keen interest in the lives and careers of his children, step-children, and grandchildren.

He was a member of the Republic United Methodist Church and served as president of the Administrative Council from 2003 through 2007.

He was preceded in death by his father, mother, brother, twin sister and son John.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years Mary Ann, son Thomas (Deanna) Villar of Lake Elmo, MN, daughter Sabina Villar of Marquette, MI, step-sons Jefferson Vorzimmer of Austin, TX and Mark (Jamie) Vorzimmer of San Carlos, CA. He is also survived by grandchildren Jason (Kristi), Kristi and Bryan Villar, Embla and Bjork Villar Hagensen, Faith and Christopher Austin, Viva, Susse and Varick Vorzimmer, Zoe and Kai Vorzimmer as well as great grandchildren Oliver and Frances Villar.

The family will greet relatives and friends from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Republic United Methodist Church with a memorial service scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, 2018 with Pastor Pete LeMoine officiating. Light refreshments will be served following the service. Military Honors will be accorded by the U.S. Marine Corp.

Considerations may be directed to Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice or the Republic United Methodist Church.

Jim’s obituary may be viewed at bjorkandzhulkie.com where relatives and friends may leave a note of remembrance.

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