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James Martin Wudel

04/07/1939 - 03/06/2020

James “Jimba” was born in Long Beach, California, the oldest of two children. He attended Long Beach City College and then was accepted into the U.S. Marine Corp, where he was deployed to Okinawa, the Philippines, and Japan. After his tour of duty, he attended Woodbury College and Pasadena ArtCenter College of Design, then Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. He was an artist at heart, a skill which was showcased in the popular “Jimba’s Restaurant” in Provo. He and his brother, John, built and operated “Jimba’s from 1968 to 1984. While at BYU, James was baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He married Barbara Betzing, and they resided in Lindon, Utah. Barbara was instrumental in helping John and James run “ Jimba’s.” After 12 years of marriage, Jim and Barbara divorced, and later, he married another restaurant owner, Pam Norris. For two years, they ran both Jimba’s, in Provo and Hardy’s restaurant in St. George, Utah. After their marriage dissolved, Jim moved to Arizona to help his brother run a sandwich shop, “Jimba’s Too” in Mesa. He Married Ella Murrin in the Manti Temple, and they were married for 26 years. He loved Ella very much, and they made some wonderful memories together. Jim went on to work at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa in its Food and Nutrition Services- a job worked for 14 years, before retiring in 2007. He Then worked part time for his brother, John, at Wudel International, in Gilbert, Arizona.

James was a gentle soul, always kind, considerate and even tempered. He loved all of God’s creatures, especially reptiles, birds and all animals. He looked at life with the eye of an artist and found beauty where most would see no value, even finding value in the smallest details. He had a reputation for his generosity and not judging others. Rather, he always believed the best in everyone, always looking for the good in them. He especially loved being with his four nieces, nephews, and spouses, and their 16 children. He believed in God and always showed reverence for his Savior Jesus Christ. His parents, Dr. Rheinhold and Kathryn Wudel, preceded him in death. He is survived by his son, Christopher James Wudel, Salt Lake City, Utah; daughter, Jaclyn Kay Wudel, Woodland Hills, Utah; and Caitlin Angelina Wudel, Woodland Hills, Utah. Also, brother, John Anthony Wudel, ( Nanci), Mesa, AZ; nephews and nieces, Tricia Wudel Baird ( Bret), Robyn Wudel Rickeberg ( Jason), David Wudel ( Amy), Johnny Wudel ( Corinne), and 16 great nephews and nieces as well as Nanci’s sister Becky Woods, and brother- in-law, Tommy Woods, of Chandler, whom he appreciated so much. Private family services will be held in Mesa, Arizona, with arrangements handled by Bunker Funeral Homes, Mesa. James “Jimba,” you brought much happiness into the world. You are loved by many who will have cherished memories of you forever. Semper Fi.


  • Thank you Jimba for the great memories at your restaurant! Growing up, it was a staple hangout to take a date to…it never disappointed and was always a Friday or Saturday night favorite. You were a gentle and kind soul to everyone, I’m glad I was able to get to know you in your retiring years and help with the keepsakes, knick-knacks and ‘treasure’ in your basement, your love for birds and critters (“it’s a scorpion Jimba, not something you want to name and hold on your lap!”), and reminiscing about the good ol’ days of movies (hey you get to meet Laurel and Hardy now!). You will be greatly missed my friend, enjoy the ‘treasures’ of heaven!

  • Rachel Nielsen

    Well Jimba, I have no doubt you’ll be off painting all kinds of scenes by now. I wonder what type of paints they have there to work with. I’ll bet it’s fascinating.

    Hopefully you’ll actually start practicing the piano – you never did practice much, did you? But it was fun. Thanks for taking care of my friend when he needed it. I’m glad you liked the recliner; it was nice to see you in a chair that really fit you. I’m glad we got to go to that Willy Nelson impersonation concert – I think that was pretty fun and you laughed really hard. Lots of memories of cleaning out that dusty garage and watching you debate on holding on to reaaalllly old magazines. Just in case. And you sure liked the birds. You’d sit out there for hours looking at that aviary with those two boys flying back and forth. They’re okay, by the way. Mom spoils them terribly, just like she does the cacti that you took care of so carefully. They’re taking over the porch!

    In the end, we all do what we can, you know? I hope I was helpful. We sure gave each other a hard time sometimes. But in the end, I think we were friends, after all. We’d talk opera and music, and you’d tell me all the people I should’ve gone to see in concert… if I’d been born yet. You sure loved “The Lord’s Prayer.” And talking about pets of the past.

    Rest in peace, friend.

  • Shannon Hunger

    What a beautiful obituary.
    May God bless and keep you, Jimba. May you find rest and peace with Nana & Ba. 💙

  • I remember that Willie Nelson impersonator concert too. Fun times! Jimba, I’ll miss being able to talk sports with you among many other topics and current events. But somehow you always knew every sports story and latest development – especially with the AZ Cardinals. Hopefully heaven gets ESPN. Love you buddy.

  • Dennis S Chapman

    You left the party much too soon. As a manager at Jimba’s I enjoyed our time together.
    Working with Jimba, John, Jay, and Jim was always a pleasure. The gorilla was great.
    More engagements happened in the Red and Gold rooms than anywhere else in Provo.
    Honkey Tonk Frankie was always a draw, as were the old time movies. Carry on, Jimba.
    Semper Fi, Brother

  • I worked for Jim at Jimbas during my senior year in high school (69-70). I live in Houston TX now but read the Provo paper online every day and was saddened to read of Jims passing. He was a great person and I learned a lot from him. He treated everyone fairly and with respect. Vaya Con Dios my Friend.

  • I just learned of Jimba’s passing as I was looking up stories about the restaurant to share with my grandson. I took my son there many times when he was a child in the early 1980’s, and I have very fond memories of the place. Rest in peace, Jimba! You gave many people wonderful memories to treasure.

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