Howard Ashby Kranz
Jim grew up near Chicago. Unlike other boys who dreamed of being a baseball player, rock star, writer or priest (OK those were # 2 - 5), Jim's lifelong ambition was to become an actuary. After a serendipitous beginning (he happened to caddy for a director of an insurance company who helped him land his first job) he rose through the ranks and wound up as an officer of a Fortune 500 company in the arcane field of life insurance financial reporting. Facing potentially life and death stress related health issues Jim chose life and retired in 2001.
Over the years, Jim stayed involved with his other dreams as well. He was the long time president of WESAC, a youth sports program in Minneapolis with over 1,000 kids. He founded the City of Lakes Volleyball Club (the current one) and has been on many boards of youth sports programs from figure skating to football (actual football, not soccer) and of course baseball and softball. Currently Jim is coaching fastpitch softball in Hopkins and is a winter pitching clinician for fastpitch in Forest Lake and Hopkins. On the writing front, Jim wrote "editorials" for the original Bleacher Bums in Wrigley Field. He also earned his A. B. from the University of Illinois in creative writing, prose fiction (which always made the insurance company CFO a bit nervous while reading Jim's explanations of earnings fluctuations). On the priest front, Jim got the title "Father" in 1984 with the birth of his son Andy, reinforced that with the adoption from Colombia of his daughter Laura and 1987 and further still with the birth of his daughter Carrie in 1989. Oh, and Jim is a licensed minister of the Universal Life Church and once had his picture in the Star Tribune performing ministerial duties (OK, the article was about wedding day disasters, but Jim as an emergency replacement minister helped save the day).
Jim's 15 minutes of fame (actually almost two hours) as a rock star came in 1973 when he was a pick up musician (baritone sax) in Sonny & Cher's band when they played at Chicago Stadium. In spite of Jim's calling to be an actuary, as he left college he didn't want to wear a suit every day so he joined a road band for 18 months (and wore a tux every day) before moving to Minneapolis and co-founding Mellow Brew/Full House. After a long hiatus for the day gig, Jim began playing with the Walker Musicians, then Judge Bennett. Jim began writing music in a blues/jazz style for Judge Bennett and folk style for open stage shows in 2005. Jim teamed up with Howard in 2007 as a guitar and bass duo (and guitar and flute duo). And, truth be known, performing Howard's brand of music is a life long dream that predates and transcends that of being an actuary. Full Circle.
Jim lives with his wife, Julia, in south Minneapolis. Their son, Andy, in an actuary (as is Julia) while Laura and Carrie are students at St. Kate's. Jim & Julia were married at Walker Church in 1982 though they didn't become members until 2002. Jim met Howard by being part of Walker's thriving artistic and musical community.