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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Love story: Couple met in series of events triggered by basketball game defeat in 1967

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” is a quote often associated with famed football coach Vince Lombardi.

But Jim Stinson might disagree. After all, losing a basketball game led to him meeting the love of his life.

It was 1967 and the “Fighting Saints” of Carroll College in Helena were facing Eastern Montana in the NAIA playoffs.

Carroll lost the first game, so he and his roommates, Pat Walsh and Jim “Gus” Gusich, came up with a plan in case they lost the second game. Knowing their fellow students would be going on a retreat, they decided to get out of town, too – a bit farther out of town than their classmates.

“We decided to go to New York City if we lost,” Jim recalled. “A friend of mine was playing in a tournament.”

Sure enough the Saints lost, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued.

Gusich got a knock on the head from a policeman’s baton and had to go to the hospital, so Stinson and Walsh decided go on ahead and told Gusich to meet them in Denver, where they’d catch a flight to New York.

Why Denver?

“Pat had a girl there he wanted to see,” Stinson said.

That girl was rooming with two other Carroll College students, including Judy Magness. They were in their senior year, doing a medical technology internship in Denver.

The three 6-foot-6-inch basketball players had so much fun they ended up taking the red-eye flight, leaving Stinson’s 1961 Chevy Impala with the girls.

The boys spent a week in New York before going their separate ways. Stinson headed back to Denver to pick up his car before returning to school. And of course he wanted to spend more time with the petite Judy, who’d caught his eye.

Though both were Carroll College students, they’d never met, since Judy was already a senior and doing her internship.

“I’m older, but I look better,” Judy said.

And when she heard Jim was on the way to pick up his car, she took action.

“I kicked the boyfriend out the front, and my roommate brought Jim up the back stairs,” she said.

A long-distance courtship ensued, with Jim making frequent use of an airline credit card issued to his roommate’s uncle, Bishop Raymond Hunthausen.

The couple got engaged in August and married June 8, 1968.

“We were still paying off the Bishop’s credit card after we married,” Judy said.

Reflecting on their courtship, Jim, said, “We just knew right away.”

Judy was more specific.

“He was tall, kind of cute, and he had really good veins.”

Medical technologists notice things like that.

She also knew Jim was looking for a family.

“I didn’t really have a home. My dad had died and her folks took me in,” he said.

Judy got a job at the local hospital while Jim finished school. Ten months later, their son Mark arrived, followed by Andy 18 months later.

Jim’s first teaching job was in St. Regis, Montana, where he coached football, basketball and track, and drove the school bus.

In 1976, they moved to Illinois for a job and that’s where daughter Jennifer completed their family.

The job didn’t pan out and some lean times ensued. When they heard of a job opening at St. Thomas More in Spokane, Jim quickly accepted. They’d sold everything they could in Illinois, but when they arrived in Spokane, they discovered the job came with a fully-furnished, five bedroom house.

“God took care of us,” Judy said.

Jim later taught and coached at Northwest Christian School, and then went on to Davenport High School, where he led the girls basketball team to two state titles.

Initially, Judy didn’t know much about basketball.

“I grew up in Anaconda, Montana. We couldn’t even spell Title IX,” she said, laughing. “I did barrel racing.”

But since her husband and all three of their children loved the sport she said she learned enough to be obnoxious.

When games got too close for comfort, she’d often take her Bible to the bathroom and pray. After she gained enough knowledge of the sport to become a feisty fan, she said her kids would say, “Mom, would you go to the bathroom and pray?”

Judy laughed.

Pointing to her heart, she said, “I’m 6-foot-4 in here. I like to win.”

Their kids also inherited Jim’s passion for teaching. Mark teaches at University High School, and his wife at Shadle. Andy and his wife teach in Tekoa, Washington, and Jennifer is the head coach of the Washington State Cougars volleyball team, where her husband is assistant coach.

The walls of the couple’s west Spokane condo are lined with action shots of their seven grandchildren.

“They’re our magnificent seven,” Judy said.

Jim retired in 2007, but not so much you’d notice. He still subs several days a week, and still helps out with coaching.

“I love kids,” said Jim, 72. “You can’t coach for 40 years and not love kids.”

He was inducted into Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, and has written three books about the state B basketball tournament in Spokane, including a comprehensive history that lists every player who competed in the tournament.

His substitute teaching pads their cruise fund. They’ve taken nine cruises and are planning more.

Judy, 74, who retired after working 18 years at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, said, “That’s how I was meant to live – on a cruise ship!”

Losing that long-ago basketball game meant winning at love, and 50 years later the Stinsons are still celebrating.

“She takes good care of me,” Jim said. “I serve her, and she serves me.”

Judy looked up at him and grinned.

“It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s never been dull,” she said.

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