James Joseph Tonso passed peacefully in the early hours on April 27th with his wife and daughter at his side. He was born in Cańon City, Colorado on May 9, 1946 to Leila and Jim Tonso, as the oldest of eight children. His early years were spent on the family farm in Brewster, Colorado before moving to Center, Colorado. Jim attended and graduated from Holy Cross Abbey in Cańon City where he enjoyed playing sports and singing in the glee club. In 1968 he graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in marketing. Upon graduation he enlisted in the US Coast Guard and was an officer until 1971. After leaving the USCG, he returned to Center to join the family business, Cańon Potato Company. Jim met the love of his life at CSU, and married Sandra Smart during their senior year of college. They raised two children in Center surrounded by family and friends.
During his time in the potato industry, Jim held several leadership roles. He was recruited by Governor Dick Lamm to the founding board of the Always Buy Colorado initiative and was a 20-year member of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee. In 1984, he was invited with other San Luis Valley leaders to the first Colorado Ag Leadership Program. He also served his community as a member and mayor of Center’s town council, as well as board of director roles for several banks and the foundation board for San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center.
In 2008 he and Sandy retired to Rio Verde, Arizona. They spent the next 10 years summering at their cabin near Creede, Colorado and enjoying golf and friends in the winter desert. Jim was a member of St. Francis Jerome catholic church in Center and St. Dominic's Mission in Rio Verde. He was preceded in death by his son, Kevin, his parents, brothers Michael and Tom, sisters Judy and Ginger. He is survived by wife, Sandy, daughter, Kim Rolfe (Wyatt), granddaughters, Caitlyn and Abigayle, siblings, Steve Tonso (Kathy), David Tonso (Hope), Nancy Sasaki (Collin) and brother-in-law Tom Smart. A memorial mass will be held for Jim at St. Dominic's Mission in Rio Verde, Tuesday, May 10th at 10a .m., followed by a reception at Rio Verde Country Club. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Verde Cares, 18934 Avenida del Ray, Rio Verde, AZ 85263.