Remembering Jim

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James (Jim) Ware Stauffer
December 6, 1945 – October 21, 2021

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Jim Stauffer was born James Ware Stauffer to Jacqueline and Maury Stauffer on December 6, 1945. As a youngster, Jim spent every spare moment on his 9 ft outboard on the bay around his family’s home on Balboa Island. He got into swimming early at the Blue Boy Swim School and went on to letter in swimming and water polo at Newport Harbor High School. He spent two years at the University of Oregon and made great friends there that he kept for his lifetime. He transferred to San Diego State University and graduated with degrees in Accounting and if there had been a degree in surfing and lifeguarding he would have earned honors for those! For two years he worked at Ernst and Ernst and was soon drawn back to lifeguarding by a permanent position at Newport.

Jim began lifeguarding as a teenager. He began guarding the bay beach when he was 15 years old. It was pure pleasure for Jim as he truly shined as he sought to make sure everyone enjoyed their time at the beach. He made incredible friends among the lifeguarding families at Newport, Laguna and ultimately as co-head of Lifeguard International Beach Services. He and his close friend and partner Dick Johnson distinguished themselves as heads of LIBS, the first private lifeguard company to serve the Orange County beaches. For 11 years, Jim and Dick led a truly outstanding team of lifeguards – many of whom became close friends for life. Jim was proud to have spent 27 summers lifeguarding.

In the late 60’s while guarding on a beach in Newport, Jim was asked to help a sick harbor seal. Jim’s big heart for all creatures made his decision to bring the fragile seal home to his spare bedroom an obvious one. From that point on, Jim was the go-to person to help with sick and injured sea creatures along the Orange County coast. After the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Jim became the first person to be granted permission by the Fish and Game to care for sea creatures in the backyard of his home at Top of the World in Laguna Beach. With the help of an amazing crew of volunteers and the indispensable partnership of John Cunningham, Rose Eckberg and many others, he formed the Friends of the Sea Lion organization. He forged bonds with the City of Laguna Beach and was so proud of the facility and organization that has grown into the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Jim would often talk about how he would pick up donated frozen fish and transport sea lions to schools as part of his desire for others to learn about the amazing sea creatures. Many of his stories included his daughter Misty who grew up with the sea lions as her playmates. He was so proud of John Cunningham and the outstanding work he and others had done to grow the organization. John and Jim were great friends and kept in touch over the many years.

In the mid-90’s he moved to Petaluma with his wife Lynn and their three kids Natalie, Clark and Weston. He was a devoted Dad and was so very proud of his kids. He recently became a grand daddy. Jim and Lynn celebrated their many happy years together and their 35th wedding anniversary in 2020. After years of lifeguarding, Jim turned back to real estate (he had worked alongside his dad at Maury Stauffer Sea Lion Realty in Corona del Mar) and for the past 25 years he was a broker specializing in Sonoma County residential property. He always went far and above to help his clients. He loved making people happy. Over the past decade he volunteered to run the Science Club and taught swimming to elementary children in Sebastopol. His Bridge Class was a hit for the 4th-6th graders. Boating continued to be Jim’s favorite past time as he spent many hours on his 23 ft ski boat on the Petaluma River. His love of animals stayed with him always as horses, dogs, cats, birds and other sweet creatures were integral to the Stauffer family homestead.

seal Jim shared so many great stories – many seemed impossibly made-up only to be confirmed by his co-conspirators. Jim’s big smile and hearty laugh helped spread good times. His intelligence and hard work (which he always sought to camouflage as great fun) will never be forgotten. The world is a better place for humans and animals because Jim was in it. He will be so very missed by his family, friends and many loved ones. If you wish to donate in Jim’s honor, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and the Petaluma Educational Foundation do work close to Jim’s heart.

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Laurie Miller Schneider

I am so sorry to hear that! His laugh is forever in my memory He truly impacted so many and his memory will live on for all of us.

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David Price

Sad news. Jim was an awesome mentor and leader. And that laugh was the best.

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John O'Three

Thanks for the lessons. Travel Well…

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Grant McMurran

Yes, lots of fond memories and awesome stories. Thank you Jim. Be in peace.

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David Klein

You changed my life for the better Jim. May the adventures continue.

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Al Mendez

Jim and Bruce were two people who helped change my life. From 1975-76, Rookie Training, through ‘77 - Regular Guard Training. They were both mentors who made a difference for me and many other former Laguna Guards. Jim in particular had two distinct sides to him. One, very serious and by the book and the other very humorous and often not so serious and not by the book. One thing very special for me was... years/decades after we Lifeguarded, he used to just show up unannounced at my house with a 6pac of Budweiser cans. We would crack a few sodies on my front lawn and tell stories for several hours at a time. He had a good memory and the stories were serious as well as absolutely hilarious... just like his personality. Stauffer was definitely a one of a kind and I did consider him a good friend. I will miss our lawn conversation. And like Baird, Bachman, and Cunningham passing before Jim... they all will be missed. RIP Jim... see you on the other side for more classic stories. Here’s to you my friend!

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Greg Dotts

He was the best mentor and like a father to me at times. Let us know if you hear of any plans.

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David Drewelow

Jim was an amazing person, a great lifeguard boss, and a good friend. We enjoyed many long talks together. I will miss Jim.

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Liz Miller

I’m so sorry to hear about his passing. Absolutely loved volunteering there (25 years ago)! Thank you for making a difference!

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Ginger Georgie

So very sorry to hear about the loss of Jim Stauffer! I visited the PMMC several years ago and it is wonderful to see the work that they do to save our marine life from injuries, etc! May Jim, now, RIP and my prayers for him and his family!

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Kirstin Asher

Just look at that beautiful smile on his face — finding joy and purpose in what we do is wealth beyond measure. Even with the little things, everyday, career driven or not. This is a life well lived. Our condolences to his family, and our gratitude to his spirit for loving up these sweet beings of the sea.

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Laurien Shotts Sirianni

I’m so sorry for his loss but he definitely made a difference in the world. That warms my heart. May his big heart and legacy live on to save and inspire others .

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Cyndi Boos

He is that one person that made a difference. The world needs more people like him. I’d like to think there is a lot of creatures greeting him at the beginning of his new journey.

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Debbie McGuire

So sorry to hear of his passing. Great man with a great passion.

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Kristin Fuller

That is so neat to know the back story and how one person can make a difference in the world. I love his smile in the photo. Thanks to Jim for his big heart and dedication to the sea animals and his community! Condolences to his family.

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JoAnn Smith

So sad that we have now had the loss of both of our founders in our 50th Anniversary year. Heartbreaking.

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Lori DiCarlo

An enduring legacy of kindness and service. Thank you Jim Stauffer for leading the way. Sincere condolences to his family and all of those who loved him and called him friend.

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Christina Fagerstal

Sadness at his passing and condolences to the family and friends who knew and loved him. He was a great example to the rest of us.

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Sue Stiles

Rest In Peace for a well lived life that made such a difference in our world. My condolences to his family.

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Ruby Kumagai

So sorry to hear of his passing. He made this world a better place! His generosity, unselfishness, and passion will continue to live on. Thank you, Jim for all you did. Now swim with the pinnipeds in the beautiful ocean in heaven! RIP.

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Tina Richard

Awww what a beautiful human being he must have been. Rest in peace and prayers to the family. Thank you for starting this amazing journey!

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Erica Faunt Bennett

What an amazing man. This was really sad but nice to read. What an amazing organization that was formed.

Carol Harnage Langford

A kind, caring, person who now has angel wings.

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Chris Brown

The Unconventional Lifeguard

Jim Stauffer had a unique way of approaching nearly every situation. He always depended on optimism, a smile that was accompanied by that infectious Stauffer giggle and his “seat of the pants” creativeness. Jim and I spent a fair amount of time in “The Unit” together so his method definitely had an impression on me that enabled us to play off each other as the situation required.

One August afternoon we got a call to run down to Crescent Bay for a medical aid. We parked at the top of the hill and ran down the ramp to the beach where a crowd of onlookers was surrounding an older local lady who had been knocked down by the shore break. She was more embarrassed than hurt but we wanted to check her out anyway. We went through the usual check list for back and neck injuries, looked for bleeding, checked that she was generally alert. After our thorough inspection we were satisfied that she was physically OK. Her biggest issue was still being a spectacle in front of the neighbors and was uncomfortable remaining on the beach. She said that she lived just up the hill on Crescent Bay Drive and asked if we could walk her home? Jim and I looked at each other and said sure...”5501” was parked across the street from her house. By the expression on his face I knew that he had something up his sleeve!

picture of joy We stood her up and started walking toward the ramp with each of us supporting her under her shoulders....she was already in a better mood moving toward home with a couple of lifeguards at her side. We stopped walking at the base of the ramp and Jim said that maybe we should try that Red Cross “four handed seat thing” that we learned in training but never got a chance to use. Then with a wink we started the comedy routine... OK this hand goes here and this hand goes here...NO it’s this way, this hand goes here...we had the spaghetti hands going great and she started laughing which was the goal. At that point we placed our hands correctly to make the seat. She put an arm around each of our necks, sat down on the newly woven hand seat and we took off up the hill with the non-stop banter between the three of us all the way home.

We got her comfortable at home and turned her over to her husband with the direction to check with their Doctor to thoroughly look her over. She asked for our names and addresses as we were leaving and said that she will always remain very grateful for our handling of her sensitive situation. Whenever she saw us after that...she never forgot how well she was treated, in fact, we both received Christmas cards with $5.00 enclosed for several years thereafter!

The take away here is, Jim was a people person and he showed it every time anyone had interaction with him. He was also the master of using available resources to solve issues but it all started with a friendly smile and that infectious Stauffer giggle! You will be missed, Jim!

Jennifer Wozniak

The power of one person doing one kind thing extends far beyond their own life. Thank you, Jim.

Chrissy Reddig

RIP kind sir. Thank you for your love and dedication to the seals.

Dianne St Andre

What a beautiful kind person. My heartfelt condolences to his friends and his family.

Julie Behrens

What a wonderful HERO! So sorry for this great loss!

Adrienne Franco

What a loss for the world! We need more people willing to step up and help animals like he did. Godspeed sir! Love to his family and friends.

Lisa Wilson Bones

Amazing organization that I am proud of in my community. My condolences to his family and friends, human and animal.

Tuesday Miles

What a great man. I love everything about rescue unit. Its ran by a bunch of beautiful people. For the love of wildlife.

Patricia Parker

My deepest condolences! Sending prayers! Thank you, Jim Stauffer, for your love, compassion and dedication!

Mary Anne Henderson

So sad that we have lost both Jim and John this year.

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Kenneth Casper

Stauffer Story: I think maybe 1976, during area orientation-service training. Woods Cove. Baird and Stauffer wanted us to jump into the blow hole on the reef that flushes out under a little ledge. Sorry I can’t remember the name of the little blowhole ( anyone?), but it was a little intimidating I must admit. So Jim explains how easy it is to duck under and swim thru, and of course his story of “ we have only lost one lifeguard here, he never came up and was never found”.

We looked at each other in anxious anticipation. Jim jumps in, pops up as expected. Then Jim says ok, “let me demonstrate one more time”. Jim jumps in the washing machine hole once more. Tick, tick, tick...2 minutes pass, no Jim. At the three minute mark Baird goes into to his act. “Somebody quick! Jump in and find Jim’s body, he obviously hit his head or got trapped”! In full panic mode, we are bumping into each other as we all start jumping one at a time thru the hole and swimming into exit area looking for Jim. As the shit was hitting the fan, at the five minute mark, and as we all thought Jim had surly drowned, we were concentrating on the hole and exit area. A guy walks up from behind us and says in a loud voice and big grin...., “what in the hell are you guys doing”?

picture of joy It was Stauffer and Baird is busting up laughing!

Later, Jim led us thru the secondary underwater tube that branches left from main exit hole that leads to the other side of the reef, and to Jim’s prank swim route to shore. That secondary tunnel was scary as heck, but as a lifeguard you were expected to swim thru to the other side! I never swam underwater so fast in my life to get to the exit and daylight again, after following the guard in front of me and getting kicked in the face with a duck foot fin. Does anyone else remember that day? Or was that just the standard Bruce and Jim entertainment show for all guards back then? Whenever I think of Jim and Bruce, I think of those shit eating grins they sported, and whenever they were up to no good. Those were the daz.......

Christine D'Angelo De Bretteville

I am so so sorry. What a hero. He’s definitely in a special place in heaven. Rest In Peace.

Sheila Eberly

Thank you for your dedication to wildlife Jim! Rest in peace.

Monterrey Wavey

Thank you Jim Stauffer for ALL you did, RIP.

Megan McBride-DeShazo

Can you imagine all of the seals that are going to greet him in heaven to say thank you for giving me a second chance at life.

Brittany Neiman

Such a remarkable person with a lasting legacy. May he Rest In Peace knowing that he made the world a better place.

DeeAnn Gilliam

Bless him for caring and actually doing! We need more people like this! He will be missed on this earth!

Best of Laguna Beach

One small action can move the world. We’ll miss you, Jim.

Theresa Shoemaker

Sending all my love.

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John S. Gill

Jim had a love for baby seals when they lost their mothers. He started to help the babies in Newport Beach from September to April.

When he moved to Laguna Beach he found a veterinarian who wanted to help him. To get them back in the ocean in Laguna Beach they had to get fish and medicals for them to get them alive and strong.

One day in March two of the seals got out of the pens along Laguna Canyon Rd. Jim and I got a call from the police dispatcher to Jim and I in our Jeep headed to Laguna Canyon Rd. When we got there the whole Laguna Canyon Rd was stopped for several miles East and West. Everyone got out of their cars to see what was happing. Jim and I picked up two cages to move them to the Laguna main beach. They were ready to get in the water when we opened them, and we never saw them again. They were surely well at this time!

A couple of years later two small Bull Elephant Seals got up in a big strong winter storm, and landed in Laguna. They thought they could stay in Laguna Beach for a couple of months, but they were putting on fat fast to 200 pounds in a month. We had to get them off the beach before they got to 5500 pounds. On top of that, they were sleeping most of the time in our rowing dory. Jim and I decided that we had to move them. So, we put them in the cages that were getting tight for them. It took 10 to 12 of us to get them down a ramp to a private large cove. They took off and we never saw them again.

picture of joy It was remarkable that Jim was bit only once, on his hand by a baby Northern Fur Seal. They are fast to get away from people and don’t hesitate to bite you.

Thank heavens for the city’s veterinarians, as well as lots of guards, and friends, as they came and thanked us for their goodness. We never saw the two Bull Elephant seals again!

Thank heavens for the city’s veterinarians, lifeguards, and friends, as they came to help Jim!

Mary Swanson

So sorry. What a great loss


Chad Basich Tomberlin

A legend, a great man!

Phillip Cohen

A true Hero.

Michele Marie

What a good man!

Denise Wallack

Bless his heart and memory

Karen M Johnston

As a thoughtful and inspired member of our Newport Harbor High School class of 1963, Jim will be missed by all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Jim’s wife and family.

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Charlie Ware

So sad to hear about Jim. His “Teddy Roosevelt” smile and signature laugh will always resonate with me. Working with Jim during the summer and several winter seasons days taught me a lot about lifeguarding in some of the most challenging situations. Really cold water, 30 knot winds in February to the summer south swells pounding the rocks and beaches throughout the Laguna coast. He always gave me insights on how to handle the rescue. Jim remembered your family members and asked how things are while spinning a fun tale that would force a laugh or an interesting perspective. His contribution to the community is well documented and he gave much of his life to helping the sea lion cause as well as advancing environmental protection. Jim even sold us our Laguna Niguel house, we still occupy after 43 yrs., as our real estate agent. Yes, he did that on the side too. He made sure our lifeguard events were fun and memorable. There wasn’t any aspect of his stewardship in LBLG that Jim didn’t have his name on it. He truly helped advance LBLG Department and later his own private lifeguard company to the highest standards. A waterman and life saver. He will be missed by anyone who had the pleasure to spend even a small amount of time with Jim. Thanks Jim and you can be sure your legacy will stay strong.

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Goodbye Old Friend