It is with incredible sadness we announce that James Alexander Zandstra (8/5/1994-9/24/2023) passed away in an accident in Long Beach, California where he lived. James is survived by his parents, Peter (Catherine) Zandstra, and his three siblings Matthew (Caitlin) Zandstra, Michael Zandstra, Rebecca (Kristian) Krc, and two nieces (Ellie and Charlie). James will be missed dearly by many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and colleagues.
Born in St. Charles to Peter and Cathy and siblings Matthew, Michael and Rebecca, James brought much joy and laughter to our family, always wearing a smile with a glint in his eyes. James grew up alongside the friends, families and mentors of Trinity CRC St. Louis, with a deep inquisitiveness about the Christian faith and God’s love for all mankind. He remained a member until his move to California. During his childhood years alongside his siblings, he enjoyed his Tonka excavators in the sandbox, sports such as baseball, swimming, and kickball, and reading books, playing piano, guitar, and drums. He built “Zandstra Style” water slides and orchestrated many water balloon fights, enjoyed camping, skiing, visiting grandparents and cousins, as well as playing with RC cars and helicopters. He was also successful in commercial lawn care, starting his own business at 14 where he learned communication, organizational and business skills.
James graduated from Westminster Christian Academy (2013) where encouraged by incredible staff he channeled his energies into an amazing experience for future students to grow their science interests, forming the CyborgCats robotics club. He then went on to Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, where he became the chief technology officer for the NASA International Mars Rover Design team. He led this team to a first-place win in the 2017 competition in Utah against 80 other universities. While his passion would mostly find him in the Rover Design Center, James also obtained his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MS&T. After various internships and jobs at SpaceX, Nucor, Electro-Impact, and Honeywell across the USA, he secured a position at Relativity Space in Long Beach. Here, James rose quickly to lead a team as Staff Mechanisms engineer. He was responsible for the thrust vector actuators on the Terran 1 rocket engines and launch on March 23, 2023. His teams’ actuators functioned perfectly.
From a young age, James was always curious about how things worked, enthusiastic about science, and designing mechanisms. He started out building a Medieval catapult replica (still on YouTube), soda bottle water rockets, WCA T-shirt cannons, then to a bolt-action propane powered tennis ball cannon (not WCA approved), and ending with the successful design of multi stage rockets. While highly technical, James also had a passion for nature and the outdoors, he backpacked the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Half Dome in recent years.
James was tenderhearted, caring and loved people and life. As a young boy he raised many animals including hamsters, rabbits, and birds. James cared deeply about his friends and was always affectionate to his widely dispersed extended family. James enjoyed 12 years with his high school sweetheart, Brianna DeGroot. He was genuine, sincere, a great listener, and mentor, always caring towards all he knew and the first to be helpful, often a mentor, and could fix almost anything. He will always be remembered with a legacy of inspiration, kindness, authenticity, and generosity and as a result was widely known and loved.
James will be greatly missed by so many! We love you.
A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, October 7th 2023 at Baue Funeral Home in St. Charles, MO. at Cave Springs. Visitation is at 11:00AM followed by a funeral service at 1:00PM. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Westminster Christian Academy Robotics program in honor of James, his teachers and mentors.
To view a live webcasting of the service, please register below.
Saturday, October 7, 2023
Starts at 4:30pm (Central time)
Meet at Pavilion #2 -Playground and restrooms, even hiking available on premises -Hot dogs, macaroni, and more - glassware not allowed -Informal sharing stories & memories of James
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Starts at 2:00pm (Central time)
Westminster Christian Academy
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Starts at 6:00pm (Central time)
Trinity Christian Reformed Church
Bonfire to honor James (fire pit is very large, built by James himself) - Bring a lawn chair or blanket if you can - Possible snacks/deserts of some type