James Boyd Payson, 89, of Polson, Montana took his last flight out of this world at 6 p.m. on September 10, 2022 at St. Joseph Hospital. He was attended by his son, wife, and a friend. Jim was born on October 22, 1932 in Centerville, Clay County, South Dakota to Wallace W. Payson and Ardith B. Payson.
In 1936 the family moved to Missoula, Montana where Jim eventually graduated high school, attended college, and later joined the United States Air Force to pursue his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot. After graduating cadet school, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant; eventually reaching the rank of major. Although he flew a variety of aircraft during his career, his favorite assignment was as a reconnaissance pilot in F-101 and F 4 airplanes. In 1962 he was sent to take the first pictures of the Cuban Missile sites for which he received a Distinguished Flying Cross from President John F. Kennedy. In 1967 he earned another DFC for pictures he made of targets deep in North Vietnam. He survived the Tet Offensive of Saigon.
On February 5, 1956 he was married to Lorraine Thompson whom he met on a blind date. They were married 66.5 years. On February 24, 1958 his daughter, Linda D. Payson was born in Missoula. She died in Polson on September 19, 2012. In Okinawa, Japan he became the father of Steven B. Payson on April 20, 1960. July 26, 1988 his only grandchild, Erik B. Payson, came into this world.
He retired from the Air Force in 1973 and proceeded to collect 5 college degrees, 4 from Louisiana Tech University and a Doctor of Education from East Texas State University. Upon graduation in 1977 he began his teaching career at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana where he rose to the office of Department head for Psychology and eventually retiring in 1997.
After retiring, he bought a motorhome and spent 20 years traveling between his 2 homes in Minneola, Florida and Polson, Montana. He enjoyed traveling, back packing, sailing, woodworking, photography, and just about any new gadget. He was a Shriner and Mason. He was very active in repairing the houses, cars, and electronics of other people. He also attended and enjoyed the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Polson where he met Mondays and Wednesdays with men who helped to solve the problems of the world.
Survivors include his wife, Lorraine of Polson, Montana, his son, Steven of Lamesa, Texas, his grandson, Erik Payson of Lamesa, Texas, his sister, Mary Payson Martin of Polson, Montana, his sister, Susan Payson of Vancouver, Washington, 6 nephews, numerous friends, and countless others who were helped and had the privilege of working with him.
The mountains that he loved and the lake that he sailed will be well within view. Age, cancer, and a life well lived wore out his body, but he had no regrets. He did his duty, he served his country, he demonstrated honor and set a good example for all of us to follow. He truly had a long, high flight.
A celebration of life ceremony will be held in the future. His body has been cremated and he will reside at the Lakeview Cemetery in the box next to his daughter.