Cover photo for Melissa James's Obituary
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1982 Melissa 2024

Melissa James

May 7, 1982 — April 14, 2024

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden and unexpected passing of our beloved Melissa Mary (Kowalski) James, cherished wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts on May 7, 1982 to Peter and Mary Liz Kowalski,  Melissa had a beautiful soul that truly made the lives of everyone she encountered better for having met her. Melissa's radiant spirit departed from this world surrounded by love on April 14, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is survived by her husband Shawn James; her children: Brooklyn and Brayden, Beckham and Juni; her father Peter Kowalski and her sister Sarah; her mother-in-law Marva James and her beloved in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Melissa was preceded in death by her mother Mary Liz, her brother Kyle Kowalski, and her father-in-law Gordon James. 

Melissa was rewarded with success throughout her life thanks to her optimism, grit, and determination. In her youth, Melissa set numerous swimming records with the Falcons Swim Team. She was also a local trailblazer in the explosion of girls basketball in the late 90s. Starting when she and her sister broke the gender barrier in the under-10 league at Nelson Sanders Basketball camp, Melissa showed a passion and skill in basketball that served her well in life. Her years of practice paid off in high school, as she helped Minnechaug Regional High School win the Western Massachusetts title four years in a row, going on to win the state championships for 3 of those years, with an undefeated 25-0 record her senior year.  

Melissa’s dedication led to a full scholarship to Northeastern University, where she was captain of the women's basketball team. Entering the starting line-up as a freshman, she retained that spot for all 115 games of her career, making 3-point field goals in each one. In fact, Melissa broke the Northeastern Women’s Basketball 3-point field goal record with her career 245 3-pointers, holding that record for over a decade.  She scored 1,244 points in high school, earning a spot on Minnechaug’s 1,000 point banner of fame, then scored 1,248 points in college. It was through basketball that Melissa made dear lifelong friends and met the love of her life, her husband, Shawn James. She and Shawn had a fairytale romance, living all over the world together while she supported his overseas basketball career, visiting over 15 countries, building a beautiful home in North Carolina, and starting a family together.

From the time she was a young girl, Melissa had one dream: to be a mom.  Not only did she become a mom, but Melissa was the most devoted wife and mother anyone could ask for. She made each member of her family feel loved while supporting their professional, academic, and athletic endeavors, seamlessly organizing busy schedules, travel arrangements, and the meticulous running of her household. In starting her multicultural family, it was important to Melissa to carefully blend her culture with her husband’s, giving respect to each. Melissa loved spending time with her mother-in-law learning how to cook delicious Guyanese cuisine and also enjoyed making her own mother’s favorite 5 spice chicken wing recipe for dozens of family members and friends at her legendary gatherings.  Melissa was an impeccable hostess, always willing to find space in her home for just one more person. She was observant of small details, showing her friends and family how important they were to her, remembering names and birthdays and ways to make all those she met feel unique and special.  While maintaining steadfast dedication to her family, Melissa also found success in her own career, from starting small businesses to earning her license in real estate, to working remotely in talent recruitment. 

To those who knew Melissa, and even those lucky enough to have met her just once, she was a light. She led with love and kindness every day, for every encounter. Words cannot adequately describe the immeasurable impact Melissa has had on everyone. Family and friends remember her boundless energy, her contagious smile and quick laugh, her witty humor, and her ability to “keep things real” by offering direct and honest advice sprinkled with love.  She was always up to date - whether you lived near or far,  and was ready to lend a shoulder or offer a supportive ear. She was everyone’s #1 fan.  Her friends and family also fondly celebrate Melissa’s quirks, such as singing 90's and 2000's R&B in the car, enjoying a good Chick-fil-a sandwich or her Diet Coke and Doritos, and playing table games (especially the card game Horrible House Pets) with just as much competitive spirit and determination as she had in winning state championships.  But most of all, we remember all the ways Melissa would put everyone's needs first, because making others happy wasn’t something she considered a sacrifice: it was her calling.  She may be gone from our sight, but her spirit will forever live on in our hearts as we are called to carry on her legacy. Rest in peace, dear Melissa; words cannot do justice to how deeply you will be missed.

Please join us as we honor Melissa James, because to know her was to love her. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial donation to the James’ GoFundMe Fund online at , by check payable to “The James Children,” or directly through Zelle to .

Calling hours will be held on Saturday evening, May 4th from 5-7 PM at James Funeral Home, 10520 Arahova Dr, Huntersville, NC. 

The funeral service will also take place at James Funeral Home at 1 PM on Sunday May 5th, immediately followed by a Christian burial service at Northlake Memorial Gardens, 11001 Alexandriana Rd, Huntersville, NC.

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


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