Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

James Frank Gheller

HURLEY, Wis. - James Frank Gheller, 87, town of Oma resident, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Hurley, after a courageous battle with cancer.

James was born on Dec. 2, 1935, in Bessemer, Michigan, a son of Richard and Isabelle (Mussatti) Gheller. James was the second of seven children. He graduated from A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer with the class of 1953.

James proudly served his country in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1955-59. During his service, he was stationed at Kwajalein Island, the Marshall Islands. For many years, he was a dedicated member of the American Legion Post 58 in Hurley and the American Legion Post 5 in Ironwood, Michigan. James was instrumental in organizing the local AMVETS Post.

James was an engine mechanic, as a career and his hobby. After his Coast Guard service, he and his brother, Joseph, owned and operated J&J Service in Ironwood. James then moved to Milwaukee, where he worked at Caterpillar and took additional college courses. Upon returning to Hurley, James taught small engine repair at Gogebic Community College and worked at Giovanoni's True Value Hardware in Hurley, where he retired.

James met Janet Rosalind Saari on a blind date New Year's Eve 1956. They married on Sept. 30, 1961, at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Bessemer, and were happily married for 61 years.

James was friendly and happy-go-lucky, well-known and liked in the community. He was a faithful and active member of the Catholic Church. James served for many years as treasurer and supervisor for the town of Oma. He co-founded the White Thunder Riders Snowmobile Club.

James is survived by his loving wife, Janet; children, Kathryn Forslund, Denver, Vincent (Aura) Gheller, Greensboro, North Carolina, Frank (Keri) Gheller, Minneapolis, and Phoenix Jackson (Teressa Giorgio), Ormond Beach, Florida; six grandchildren, Robert and Jordan Forslund, Gabriela and Bianca Gheller, and Nicholas and Matthew Gheller; two brothers, Battiste "Bunny" Gheller and Richard (Roberta) Gheller, both of Bessemer; a sister, Mary Clements (Dale Maxam), Appleton, Wisconsin; two sisters-in-law, Barbara (Joseph) Gheller, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Yvonne Pumala, Ironwood; his brother-in-law, James Saari Sr., Oma; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

James was preceded in death by his parents; a son, John Peter, in infancy; two brothers, Joseph and Stephen, in infancy; a sister, Patricia; his sister-in-law, Nancy Saari; and his brother-in-law, Bryan Pumala.

The family would like to extend a very special thank you to his nephew, Brian Gheller; and to the staff and residents of the Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley.

Friends may call at the Lakeside Memorial Chapel, 806 Putnam St., in Wakefield, Michigan, on Sunday, Feb. 26, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m., at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Ironwood, with the Rev. Brian Gerber, celebrant.

Following the Mass, light refreshments will be served at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3673 in Bessemer.

In lieu of flowers, consider a donation in his memory to Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, 108 S. Marquette St., Ironwood, MI 49938.

Rite of Committal, military honors and interment will take place at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Bessemer, in the spring.

Jerald Rocco, owner and manager of Lakeside Memorial Chapel Inc., in Wakefield, is assisting the family with arrangements. To send online condolences or to share a memory, please go to

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