James Zanton, age 71, died January 22, 2021.
He was born November 30, 1949 to Merlin and Darlene (Wegner) Zanton in Johnstown, Wisconsin. He attended Johnstown Community School and graduated from Whitewater High School. Jim – a 4th generation dairy farmer – started farming side by side with his father. Jim married Mary Jo Simon in 1976, and they had seven children. He then farmed alongside Mary Jo and all the children, milking fifty-eight cows a day, baling hay, and picking up rocks.
Jim won the FFA’s highest award, the American Farmer Degree. He and Mary Jo met through the Grange and were the “National Grange Couple of the Year” in 1985. He was a member of the National Grange Youth Committee in 1986. He served as Master of the local Grange, was vice-president of the Wisconsin State Grange and was a member of the National Grange Dairy Committee. Jim recruited over five-hundred new Grange members and organized the local Grange chapters of Wolf River, Four Lakes, Harmony, Rock Prairie, Jonesdale, and Blue Valley Pomona. As well as Junior Granges of Rock-Walworth, Turtle, and Rock Prairie. Jim organized the Grange basketball tournaments and Grange softball tournaments for rural youth. He organized the Grange for Vet school to bring a school of Veterinary Medicine to Wisconsin. He acquired more legislative votes than any other person to get it passed.
In 1988, he was granted a real estate license. He specialized in farms, farmland, farmettes, and rural homes, working primarily for Shorewest Realtors. In 2007 he was named Sales Director of the Janesville Shorewest office. In 2014 he was voted Realtor of the Year. For many years, Jim organized Shorewest’s Salvation Army Golf Outing Fundraiser.
Jim was on the Johnstown town board for six years, and the planning and zoning committee for eleven years. He worked for McNall Farms, helping them rent twenty-one farms. Because he was so involved in the Johnstown and Milton area, every drive with Jim was filled with stories about the properties he had become so familiar with.
Sports held a special spot in Jim’s life. He was a Milwaukee Brewers season ticket holder since 1988 and a Green Bay Packers season ticket holder since 1990. In 2008 he even became an owner of the Packers! He loved pick-up games of basketball and baseball in his youth and instilled the love of sports in his children. During halftime of every Packer game the family would run outside to get in a quick football game before the 2nd half. The family enjoyed playing a world series game, boys vs. girls, every year. Jim and Mary Jo attended as many of the children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events as possible, sometimes driving from town to town to catch different games, meets, and events in the same day. They even regularly attended Steve’s football games in River Falls. Jim was also proud to coach little league baseball and girls’ softball for eighteen years in the Milton Recreation League.
Jim and Mary Jo loved to travel. Fun family trips were a yearly event. Some of the most memorable trips were to Washington D.C., California, South Dakota, Texas, Las Vegas, New York, Pennsylvania, and of course, Disney World and Disneyland. Jim loved musicals and other performances and spent a lot of time in the audience of his children’s and grandchildren’s show choir performances, musicals, gigs, Sunday school plays, piano recitals and more. He enjoyed all levels of performances: from the county fair to New York and Las Vegas. Jim especially loved the music from Hamilton.
He was a lifelong member of First English Lutheran Church in Whitewater, serving as chairman of the Finance Committee for three years.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Robert Zanton, grandson Daniel Zanton, brother-in-law Larry Taugher, in-laws Joe and Marie Simon, sister-in-law Katie Simon, and sister-in-law Adele Simon.
Jim is survived by his wife, Mary Jo; Dr. Geoffrey (Sara) Zanton and their five children, Anna, Sam, Henry, Luke and Maggie; Jennifer (Michael) Mood and their four children, Simon, Zeke, Abe and Jonah; Patricia Zanton; Marie (Adam) Stapleton and their child, Corinthea; Elizabeth (Jon) Maloto and their children, Elijah and Isaiah; Thomas (Caitlyn) Zanton and their children, Cora and Bailey; Stephen Zanton (girlfriend Mariah Cooper); sister, Judi Taugher; sister-in-law Jody Zanton; brothers-in-law Greg (Dianna) Simon, Jerry (Denise) Simon, and Dan (Lori) Simon; and nephews and nieces.
His battle with cancer is over, but his zest for life and love will live on forever.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A public visitation will take place from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 29, 2021 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Whitewater. A private family service will take place at 11 a.m. at the church and will be live-streamed from www.nitardyfuneralhome.com. The public visitation will be socially distanced, and masks are required.
In lieu of flowers, please mail donations in memory of Jim, to Salvation Army, 514 Sutherland Ave. Janesville, WI 53545 or Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc (MACC Fund) maccfund.org
The family would like to give special thanks to Jim’s healthcare team, especially the oncology unit at Mercyhealth in Janesville.
Nitardy funeral home is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences can be made at www.nitardyfuneralhome.com