Jim’s Story

Jim Geiger

Jim grew up in Milwaukee, WI with his two sisters, Linda and Lois. When he was 10 his family moved to a new home in Brookfield, WI.  After graduating from high school Jim went on to college at the UW-Milwaukee hoping to become a dentist, but discovered that he wasn’t cut out for organic chemistry.  He dropped out of school and got a job driving a truck, but 9 months later got drafted into the Army.  He decided instead to join the Marines and proudly served as an Avionics Technician E5 from 1965 to 1969.  He initially worked on F4 Phantoms and A6 Intruders, conducting the required maintenance to enable the aircraft to return to combat in Vietnam. He later became a Calibration Technician.

Following his service in the Marines he was hired by Baxter Laboratories in Morton Grove, IL as an Electronic/Calibration Technician supporting research efforts on the artificial heart.  But the fit wasn’t right for him, so 12 months later he decided to become a forester and enrolled at UW-Steven Point in their Forest Management Program. First things first, however:  in January, 1971 he married Cris and off they went together to Wisconsin. He graduated with a degree in Forest Management, but not before having their first child, Shelly, in 1972. Their second daughter, Deanna, arrived in 1975.

His first job as a forester was with Southwest Forest Industries in Snowflake, AZ working in the pulpwood yard. But his first love was urban forestry, a discipline he was introduced to during his last year in school. He had met the head urban forester of Chicago, Chuck Stewart, at a school conference, and in 1975 Jim was hired as a City Forester for Chicago working under Chuck. In 1978, Jim accepted a position with the California Department of Forestry and became California’s first Urban Forester. Based in Sacramento, CA, Jim helped create California’s urban forestry program and for 15 years was the State Urban Forester. During this time Jim went to night school to work on his graduate degree. In 1997 he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Organization Development. The last 7 years with the state Jim ran the Forest Stewardship and Forest Legacy programs and retired in 2000.

He wasn’t quite done with urban forestry, however, because a week after retiring Jim went to work for the US Forest Service. He accepted a position with the Center for Urban Forest Research in Davis, CA as Director of Communications and went on to develop a multi-media approach to interpreting research for the general public that enhanced the Center’s reputation in urban forestry research. Jim’s last 5 years with the US Forest Service were spent as Forest Legacy Program Manager for Regions 5, 6 and 10. He retired in May, 2012 and still lives in Sacramento.

Jim Geiger climbing with his family.Jim is the proud dad of Shelly and Deanna, and also the proud grandpa to 5 grandsons, Wayne, Drew, Bobby, Allen, and Thomas. In 2011 his first great-grandson arrived, Aiden, son of Wayne and Taylor. In January 2014, Wayne and Taylor had a baby girl, the first girl in the family in 38 years. And their newest addition arrived in July, 2016, Ava Joy. Jim’s family remains his highest priority, and even though Shelly’s family lives in Illinois, he spends a lot of time there with them. To ensure that the boys get to really know him, Jim takes his grandsons on a special week-long trip every other year.  It is a time to spend quality time with them. These trips have lovingly become known as Grandpa’s Road Trips. The first one followed the Lewis and Clark reenactment, followed by the Indianapolis Speed Way, Ford Motor Museum, Niagara Falls, etc. Number 6 is coming up in 2017. Another special event for each of the grandsons is a special one-on-one with Grandpa for their graduation from high school, such as a Cubs game, Blue Man Group Concert and Green Bay Packers game. Jim is looking forward to the next graduation.

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