James Yunowich

NIAGARA, Wis. – James Elroy Yunowich, 37, of Los Angeles, Calif., passed away unexpectedly on March 31, 2014, in Los Angeles.

James was born on July 23, 1976, in Iron Mountain, Michigan and lived in Niagara, Wis. until the age of 16, when he moved to lower Michigan to attend Interlochen Arts Academy on scholarship as a theatre major his junior and senior years of high school.

While residing in Niagara, Jimmy was involved with the Niagara Community Theatre Group and credits that group’s support and encouragement in helping him pursue his dreams. He also credited the Niagara High School acting teacher he called his “mentor,” Stephanie Schunk. James graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy June 2, 1995, receiving the Fine Arts Award for Performance in Acting, voted on by the faculty.

He was awarded a Cal Arts Scholarship to attend the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, Calif. in the fall of 1995 to major in acting. Summer Repertory Theatre (SRT) granted James a scholarship to perform in their summer stock production at the Santa Rosa, Calif. Junior College. Eight family members had the luxury of watching James perform in four plays that summer of 1997.

James graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, also on scholarship, in the fall of 1998. In 2007, he furthered his education by attending the Joe Blasco Make-up Artist School where he received an advanced certificate from that school. A “struggling artist,” is a term James definitely understood, when he moved to LA in 1995 in pursuit of his dreams.

A Memorial Service was held in California on April 7, 2014, in celebration of his life. During that service many friends shared how he affected their lives with his nonjudgmental love and support, his great big smile, his bear hugs, and that beautiful voice, expressing an essence and light about him. You just wanted to be around him and be his friend; he was an “old soul” and so very kind.

A quote by Seamus Heaney reminded countless friends of James: “He would walk into my mind as if it were a town and he a torchlight procession of one, lighting up the streets”

James is survived by his mother, Elyce Yunowich, of Mesa, Ariz., sister and brother-in-law, Jeanne and Paul Jerks, his cherished niece and nephew, Mackenzie and Malcolm Jerks, of Green Bay, Wis., partner, Conor Silva, of Los Angeles; maternal grandmother, Denyce Mattson, of Iron Mountain; Aunt Nancy and Uncle Ron Marks, of Oshkosh, Wis., Aunt Diane and Uncle Roger Adams, of Florence, Wis., Aunt Gerry and Uncle Dennis Mattson, of Iron Mountain, Aunt Sharon and Uncle Esley Mattson, of Munising; cousins Jill Dujardin, Heather Fetner, Heather Johnson, Esley Mattson, Melissa Mattson, and Michael McDonald; and many more aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

James was preceded in death by his father, James Yunowich; maternal grandfather, Elroy Mattson; and paternal grandparents, Clarice and Eugene Yunowich.

Visitation will be Saturday, June 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home in Iron Mountain.

A celebration of life service will be held at 12:30 p.m at the funeral home.

Rev. Gene Wickman will officiate. Burial will be in the Niagara Cemetery.

Condolences to the family of James Yunowich may be expressed online at

The family has entrusted the Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home of Iron Mountain with the arrangements.