Cover photo for Joseph James Ulliman's Obituary
Joseph James Ulliman Profile Photo
1935 Joseph 2023

Joseph James Ulliman

July 19, 1935 — May 14, 2023

Moscow, Idaho


ULLIMAN, Joseph James, 87, was Barb’s blue-eyed cowboy. He began his life as the first of seven siblings born to Joseph and Iola “Tunney” (née Roth) Ulliman in Springfield, Ohio on July 19, 1935. He spent his growing up years in Springfield, Ohio. Like most young boys of that generation he delivered newspapers, was an altar server, and played sand lot baseball. He graduated from Catholic Central High School where he played basketball and football. (He also hand dug graves by light of a lantern!) After graduation he attended University of Dayton and joined ROTC to help pay his way. College summers found him working on trail crews in the Sawtooth Mountains and Glacier National Park.


While fulfilling his initial Army requirements, Joe corresponded with Barb, who he met in Glacier National Park. Discussion of travel in Europe and Germany encouraged him to re-enlist but not before he married Barb. Joe served in the artillery – the big guns/Howitzers. They spent almost three years in Ansbach, Germany (near Nuremberg). During this time, he was promoted to captain, they adopted a dachshund, and had two daughters, Kathy and Anne. After three years he requested to leave the Army but was obligated to serve another year, this time at Fort Carson, Colorado where his son Mark was born. Joe was scheduled to go to Vietnam but fate intervened and his second request to be released from duty was approved by a civilian at 5th Army headquarters. 


During the tour in Germany, Joe was an aerial observer, which led to his interest in aerial photography and remote sensing. Once he was released from active duty the family moved to the Twin Cities where the University of Minnesota had given him the best exchange for his past credits. There he earned his MS and PhD in Forest Management. 


After an exchange with the Forest Service in Eugene, Oregon, the West’s allure took hold of the family. This was further entrenched after traveling through Moscow and visiting the University of Idaho. Joe was impressed with the tour of the forestry school he received from an acquaintance. Once home, he applied for and received an Associate Professor position at UI. Soon after arriving on campus, he developed the Remote Sensing program, which began in the fall of 1974. 


During his many years at University of Idaho Joe took advantage of travel opportunities and visited the Netherlands, Germany, France, Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and S. Africa). While in Kenya and Tanzania he and two friends realized their love of hiking and climbing by ascending Kilimanjaro. In the US he climbed the Grand Teton and Mt Rainier. Less strenuous activities included testing and cataloging over 1,000 beers and baking six loaves of sourdough bread each week (which quickly disappeared when the kids came home to do laundry). He and another faculty member hosted sourdough pancake breakfasts to support the Forestry club. Other enjoyable hours were spent at the chess board, during “probability seminars” (poker!), and playing tennis. Joe accumulated several nicknames: as a child he was JoJo, as an associate professor he was Sourdough Joe and Photo Joe, and at tennis he was Oh No Joe. 


Although Joe dutifully served as Assistant Dean of the College and department head for Forest Resources, his love was teaching. His students found him fair but demanding. For example, if they misspelled a Latin name or used improper grammar he corrected and took points off (he was, after all, an English major at University of Dayton). Can you imagine that – during a time when there was no spell check? Joe was a remote sensing specialist, recipient of Phi Kappa Phi Distinguished Faculty award (1985) and German Academy Exchange Program award (1985). He retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Idaho in 1998. 


Joseph passed away Sunday May 14, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho, due to Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The last 18 months of his life were increasingly difficult for him and those who loved him. His wife Barbara (Gish) of 62 years was beside him throughout the journey. She was assisted by the loving and kind care providers at Good Samaritan skilled nursing. Joe is survived by two daughters, Kathryn Johnson (Shawn) of Georgetown, TX, Anne Ulliman of Bothell, WA, one son Mark Ulliman (Ann) of Moscow, ID, five grandchildren: Audrey & Aaron Ulliman, and Olivia, Noah & Isabel Johnson; two brothers Paul and Mike (Kathy) Ulliman and two sisters Jean (Jack) Ryan and Rita (Allen) Cerasani. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Judith Mazur and brother Edward. His siblings, friends, students and faculty remember him as humble, kind and generous. 


Joe’s celebration of life will begin with mass at 11:00 a.m. on July 19, 2023, at St. Augustine Catholic Church on the University of Idaho campus. The celebration will continue at the 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., Moscow, Idaho., following the mass and ending at 2 p.m. Memorials towards an endowed scholarship may be sent to University of Idaho Foundation, Inc., 875 Perimeter Dr MS 3143, Moscow, ID 83844-3143 or to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. 
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