Cover photo for James William Pihlaja's Obituary
James William Pihlaja Profile Photo
1958 James 2022

James William Pihlaja

September 26, 1958 — January 31, 2022

James “Yama” William Pihlaja, 63 of Detroit Lakes, MN passed away peacefully on Monday, January 31, 2022, at Oak Crossing.

James was born on September 26, 1958, to Harold and Dorothy (Jellum) Pihlaja.  James grew up on a dairy farm in Snellman, MN with his two siblings Duane and Sharon.  He was baptized and confirmed at Gethsemane Lutheran Church and graduated from Frazee High School in 1977. After graduating he traveled around building bridges.  In 1990, he met the love of his life Cathy George.  They married in 1992 and to this marriage were two children Dorothy and Charlie.  James, better known as “Yama” for his Yamaha Motorcycle, loved going on fishing trips to Canada, hunting, snowmobiling, four wheeling, and running Charlie’s Ottertail Tubing with his wife. 

James was extraordinarily talented in wood working, concrete, and brick work.  You could easily find him spending time with family, enjoying his favorite drink EJ and 7 or disguising his fish house because everyone knew if you could find Yama you could find walleye.  

James is survived by his wife of 29 years Cathy (George) Pihlaja, two children Dorothy and Charlie Pihlaja, siblings Sharon Pihlaja: Duane and Sharon (Haspel) Pihlaja, and numerous nieces and nephews.


He is preceded in death by his parents Harold and Dorothy (Jellum) Pihlaja, and nephew Adam Pihlaja. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James William Pihlaja, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, February 3, 2022

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

West Kjos Funeral Home


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Memorial Service

Friday, February 4, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Gethsemane Lutheran Church


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