Remembering and Honoring James Bosch

Written on June 15, 2023

It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of James Bosch on June 14, 2023. James was a pillar within the burn community: a counselor, a burn survivor, an advocate, and so much more. He had a tremendous impact on the community and Phoenix Society’s work.

James was burned as an infant and spent much of his life helping other survivors and their families heal and find meaning after a burn. He continued to learn and teach through the tough parts of life, right up until the time he left us.

For over 20 years, James was a strong Phoenix Society supporter, mentor, advocate, and team member. He helped build the peer support program Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) and held the safe space that has become the iconic Phoenix World Burn Congress Open Mic, a place where many were able to share their stories and find steps forward. These are just a few places James made a difference. James had a unique ability to talk about the hard things while also providing hope and compassion for others. His joy was legendary on the dance floor, showing that all life is worth living to the fullest. His last message to me a few weeks ago when I was at the Buses by the Beach music event was to “dance around the fire and scream to the stars.” We will be dancing and screaming at the stars, and to you, James, come this October at Phoenix WBC.

We will never be able to thank James enough for his support of the community. Our hearts are with all who loved and cherished him.

— Amy Acton and the Phoenix Society team


On June 14, 2023 James Anthony Bosch passed away after a warrior battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56 years old.

James is survived by his mother, Cheryl Thompson Johnstone and his stepfather Kim Johnstone. His father David Bosch and his stepmother Nancy Bosch. His siblings Gary Bosch of Hawaii, Heidi Bosch of Petaluma, Douglas Johnstone (spouse Meghan Johnstone) of Colorado, Heather Johnstone (partner Scott Howland) of Buellton. He passionately loved his nieces and nephews, Iris Bosch and Gavin, Tyler and Dylan Johnstone.

James was born on April 8, 1967 in Marin County, California. He graduated from Terra Linda High School and went on to attend College of Marin, Sonoma State College and California Institute of Integral Studies where he graduated with a master’s degree in MA Counseling Psychology-Community Mental Health.

James loved the outdoors and exploring new places. His love of nature was boundless. He loved camping, biking, hiking and skiing. One of his passions was creating pottery and so many of us were fortunate to receive one of his beautiful pieces.

James worked and volunteered for many organizations. Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF), Phoenix Society (PS),

Aftercare Reintegration Committee (ARC), International Association Firefighters Burn Camp (IAFF), Canadian Burn Survivors Foundation, Mamingeway Burn Survivor Society, International Association of Burn Camps (IABC), University of North Carolina Burn Center, University of Utah Burn Center, Firefighters Burn Institute, San Jose Firefighters Burn Foundation, BC Professional Firefighters Association Burn Fund, Aids Life Cycle, and AA.

He not only contributed his time and skill to these organizations but his zeal for life. You could always count on James to be the first and last on the dance floor. His smile and laughter was contagious and will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of having him in their life.

The family asks that donations be sent to Alisa Ann Ruch Foundation (AARBF) and Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors in lieu of flowers to honor James legacy. James' family will be sharing the location and date for Celebration of Life once details are finalized.

During this challenging time, we would love to hear about how James has impacted your life. Please share your memories with us in the comments below so that his spirit lives on.

Tribute Wall

Comments will be added as they are submitted.

That is sad news. I always thought James was such a sweet person. I only knew him from seeing him at the WBC and spoke a few times. You could always tell that the Burn community meant so much to him. He always had a smile for you, he was handsome and a great dancer. He will be missed by all that knew him. Nick and I send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We are from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. RIP James.

— Linda Davis

James was soft heart man, may God create ease for James, and I am short of words to describe James' greatness. He was a great person.

James ran the first burn camp that I attended after my fire. Although I wasn’t quite ready for the outdoors yet he showed me that I could still have fun after my fire. I saw him years later at W.B.C. He was full of life and smiles and once again showed me how wonderful life can be. If you ever attended the W.B.C. closing banquets and you stayed for the music then you had the pleasure of seeing James dance. Oh man could he dance.
He was the definition of “Thriving” He was an inspiration to everyone who might have been afraid to go outside after a fire. If you were friends on Facebook then you got to see all of his travels and adventures. He gave so much and made so many of us feel loved when we were in his presence. Thanks you James for everything you taught us and the smiles that you shared with us. Ride safe James.

— ❤️ Evan

This breaks my heart, James had so much Aloha! I met him at the Burn Survivor Camp held right before Covid, in Baltimore. His smile and energy will be truly missed. After one of our camp group meetings he pulled me to the side as I was uncontrollably crying, I’ll never forget his words of love. My heart is with his family and the world of people that felt his love.

— Mads

James was the first person who told me that there was no “normal” when I cried about feeling like I’d never be normal again. He said it was an imaginative idea. And if it’s in your imagination, you can make it whatever you want.

— Faith 💖

I am at a loss. James was bigger than life itself. His gregarious laughter you could hear miles away. I know he had a very close knit of Burn Survivor friends and I was blessed to be able to get to know him better in 2019. James you continue to rock the world in your new home of peace and no more pain. 

— Lily

James was such an amazing and beautiful person with a heart of gold. He was very proud of who he was and that’s what made him so incredible. He gave so much of himself to the burn survivor community. He was always one I would look for at WBC. He would always take time to talk to you no matter what he had going on or what he was doing. And talking to him made you want to be a better person. I don’t think we ever talked about our burn injuries. We would just talk. I am going to miss that. I am proud to call him a friend. RIP my friend. You will be missed.

— Scout

My heart is aching for his departure. James made a great impact in my life, not only as a burn survivor, but as an advocate for the burn survivor community. He is going to be greatly missed. Sending all the love and prayers to his family. We love you James!! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

— Martha

James was a great mentor and friend to me as I started my career with the Phoenix Society. His lessons in compassionate listening, and the power of Peer Support were invaluable. There are no words to fully describe the impact James had on my life and others. He will be deeply missed!

— Sara Byrne

He was and always will be one of the most positive and inspiring people I will ever know.

— Jen

JB was a treasure in the Phoenix world. He will be missed. I will miss him. He sat with me for my first WBC for a while and assured his and the communities support twards my mental recovery. Also facilitated the open mics and the zoom burn meetings thru the pandemic. A TRUE MENTOR, a friend and will forever be in my heart and the hearts of the lives he touched. His spirit will live on in our Burn Community. #phoenixforever

— Gina

James was such a sweetheart and he helped me so much during my recovery. rip

— Abbey

He was a genuine kid caring person plus he had killer dance moves truly one of a kind.

— Shaheem

I am saddened to hear of this. James was such a bright light in this world. He was an inspiration to me as a burn care provider. We will miss you. 💛💛💛

— Julie

I know he’s dancing around the heavens without a care in the world. His energy will be missed ❤️

James, AKA Jamba has helped our family in ways that can't even be explained. From camp counselor to therapist and much more. He is like family. His light shown bright and far. We're going to miss him so much!. ❤️❤️❤️

— Chris

James laughter and never ending smile. The Burn family will forever remember you. Rest peacefully now.🙏🙌

— Lisa

An unbearable loss for me personally.james was the one who pulled me out of the darkness of disappointment.he was the one who introduced me to stronger me.he listened to my story n my journey many times and made me realize how strong and multi talented I am.he gave me a chance to be a peer support member and lighten a new hope within me to restart my life n career.i wanted to meet him in WBC this year for he was pushing me to attend it a must.he will always be in my heart and prayers.i promise you James that I'll follow your footsteps.RIP

— Yogi

James was one of the change makers of the Phoenix Society - one of the first burn survivors and advocates i remember meeting in the burn community. His heart, humor, and passion to support others in healing and connecting to the best resources - that always stood out to me. And really motivated me to pursue the advocacy work and therapy role I have found today. A forever piece and part of my journey - and many others.

— Lori

When I was in some of the bleakest stretches of this healing journey this man helped me immensely. He gleamed truths from things you would say and show you your own wisdom you somehow overlooked. He instinctively found the balance of both comforting you and challenging you.He was a real mensch. Actually, he is who inspired me to pursue my Masters in Counseling after he got his to better help the burn community he loved (and who loved him back). In fact, I unconsciously model therapy groups I run in his exuberant yet reverent style.He not only helped me heal myself, but taught me how to heal others.Im sad I never took the time to tell him that. Thanks for all you’ve done for us JB. RIP to a Healer.

— Robert

James was always smiling. He made everyone feel so welcomed at the burn conventions . I volunteered at a burn camp he was volunteering at also. I will never forget I was sleeping in the main cabin with other volunteers, James and some other guy counselors put Saran Wrap under the toilet seats in the women’s bathroom. You can imagine what happened. He made sure all of the adult burn survivor counselors were having a great camp experience! He will be so so missed, Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

— Mary

He was the best person and loved everyone. I’ll will love him and miss him so much. He will be very miss so much. He was my first counselor, my first time at Champ camp he made me feel wanted and not scared because I was kids 8 or 9 years old. He was my friend and mentor, because his personality and how he looked at life. Show me how to be the person. I’m today, not be scared afraid embarrassed of what I look like or What another say about me. He was a Great mentor in my life and always will be never forget. Much love and a lot of E Hugs. Rice crispy. Biggest Heart my condolences.

— Noel

This is terrible news. Wow, absolutely heart breaking to lose someone like James. James always made me feel welcome at any and all events. His smile was infectious and he will be incredibly missed by anyone who knew him.

— Amanda

How does one even begin to capture James in a brief tribute? Many people considered James to be a mentor and a friend. James enjoyed having fun and had a contagious spirit that brightened every room he entered. He had an incredible impact on everyone he met, whether they were close friends or just needed someone to talk to. James will be missed greatly, but his memory will live on.

— Natasha Jokerst

James helped bring the Phoenix SOAR program into our Burn Center. He trained all of our coordinators with such a fun and joyful spirit. He was truly an inspiration.

— The Burn and Reconstructive Center at Swedish Medical Center

James had the most infectious laugh and a smile that lit up the room. His zest for life was obvious to all who came near him. He touched so many lives and left us all the richer for knowing him. We love you James.

— Lynda Llewellyn

James was there for me in the beginning of my healing journey ❤️. He’ll always have a special place in my heart. A rockstar, that one. May your energy live on ❤️

— Patty Tweedle

In every memory I have of James he was either making people laugh or offering love. He continued to teach us valuable lessons even during this difficult last year. I am so grateful to have known him and called him friend. His impact on this world will endure in so many ways. Miss you James.

— Ingrid Parry

I got the privilege to meet James at a burn camp in Baltimore where I was a counselor at a few years back. He always had that big smile on his face and that incredible laugh. He was always so positive. He could always put a smile on your face and make you laugh. I'm so glad I got the chance to meet you and spend such an amazing week with you! You will be greatly missed by so many. My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends and the burn community. R.I.P James you'll never be forgotten! 🙏💔

— Theresa Chambers

Thank you for all you have done for us. May you rest in peace. We will always remember you.🙏🙏🙏

— Daisy Mayers

He lit up the room and made everyone feel welcome and want to be a part of the action! James knew people and how to treat them well and see the possibilities. We worked together and he taught me so much about being a survivor. And about the importance of the Phoenix Society. He and Cindy Rutter were the inseparable dynamic duo. RIP dearest James!

— Sara Ann MacKinlay

James welcomed me and my husband at his table every day at my first world burn Congress. He made us feel so welcome and kept us laughing the night away. Such a sweet caring soul.

— Shirley Gutknecht

I met James through work. I appreciated his love for life and people. I loved his sense of humor and his compassion.

— Maria Daoud

I met James when he came to sit with me day after day when my son was first burned. I was very young mom and he was there to answer all the questions I had. After my sons release from the hospital he was always an email or call away. As my son got older, my son got very close to him. He was one of a kind and he will truly be missed.

— Bethany

He was definitely one of a kind a very infectious soul. Definitely proud to have stood with him shoulder to shoulder aiding others in their burn journey

— Relly

He was definitely one of a kind a very infectious soul. Definitely proud to have stood with him shoulder to shoulder aiding others in their burn journey.

— Sonia

I was the burn coordinator at a local hospital, John was very helpful at my first World Burn Congress and conferences, his passion at open Mic night and I will never forget his ballroom. Dancing and just the way he lit up a room. RIP James💜

— Paul

Where to start? JB is the example of what a survivor should be. Calm, kind, open and honest and called you on your bs. The legacy will know no bounds.

— Scout

Truly sad loss of a resilient, inspirational, forever giving man. May his memory be a blessing always.

I was the burn coordinator at a local hospital , John was very helpful at my first World Burn Congress and conferences, his passion at open Mic 🎤 night and I will never forget his ballroom Dancing and just the way he lit up a room. RIP sweet James.

James attended many burn survivor conferences in Canada and made a huge difference in the lives of so many. Whether speaking at a Mamingwey Burn Survivor conference, facilitating sessions at a Canadian Burn Survivors Community conference, or leading youth at a special gathering, he was always present to those around him, kind, gentle, loving and so much fun. We will dearly miss him. Submitted on behalf of the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society.

— Barbara-Anne Hodge

To my book-end brother Scars in Heaven "If I had only known the last time would be the last time I would have put off all the things I had to do. I would have stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter Now what I'd give for one more day with you... "

— Juan Azcarate

James was unforgettable! I too have had the pleasure of dancing with him at an ABA in Vegas a long time ago and experiencing his incredible energy. I have also been so impressed by his ABA talks including most recently his one on imposter syndrome and on motivational interviewing. He will be so missed! 💔

I struggle to find adequate words to convey the immense respect and affection I have for James.he was my mentor and a guardian,pulling me out of darkness and despair.i had the fortune of meeting James a few months ago,and he became a beacon of light in my life.despite the time zone difference as I hailed from a different part of the world,he was always available whenever I needed support.he was not only a guide,but also a source of inspiration,a friend and a teacher.i deeply regret not being able to be there for him during his difficult times.james(the disguised angel)your presence will be sorely missed throughout my life,and I solemnly vow to continue working on the path you guided me towards in order to improve my in peace.

— Saima Sohail

I will never forget the first day we met. He came and sat next to me and said, “ Hi I’m James, you're in the right place at the perfect time. You're time here is no coincidence. If you learn nothing from this weekend, know that you are loved.” Right back at you my friend. Until we meet again❤️

— Veronica

peaceful journey JB ✨🙏💜 you will not easily be forgotten 💔

— Donna Phoenix

My fondest memories of James include going out for sushi whenever he was in Seattle. Once on a hike on Mount Rainier, James climbed to the peak but kept coming back down to check on me after I slipped on a frozen waterfall and the giant horse flies attacked me as their snack! We had such fun times dancing at meetings! I will miss his awesome hugs and welcoming smile!!! Thank you, James, for challenging me and teaching me to go after my dreams!

— Dana Nakamura

james is a great man and a good loving kind person he always told me if you need some help contact me in whatsapp but I say no I forgotten didn't tell him my whole stories it's heart breaks now im feels so sad brother James I always missed you ❤️🙏

— Rajin Jacob

James you were such a bright light, Thank you for your words, you will be remembered FOREVER!

— Toni L.

Such sad news to hear! I met James at Camp Beyond the Scars in So. Cal. where I was volunteering doing the crafts, and later he invited me to be part of the AARBF which I volunteered with for several years as Craft Queen! I will always remember his wonderful smile and great happy way about him, and how he made EVERYONE feel welcomed!! RIP James, and prayers to his family and friends!!!

— Cheryl Morrison

I first met James at the 2008 WBC and had connected with him each year until Covid cut us off. I felt honored to be allowed onto his alias Facebook page. James was one of a kind and will be long missed and always remembered.

— Andy Lee

James, you trained me to be a SOAR support member. You were kind and genuine. I AM IN AWE when I read about your history with the Burn community. Your spirit lives on and your family should be proud of what you left behind.

— Holly Gage

James Bosch, or JB, impacted my life so many ways. The first time I met him he made me feel welcome at World Burn Congress 2012, Milwaukee. His energy was so positive and helped make being a burn survivor a little more easy.

Our paths kept crossing multiple times and everytime I learned more about how to help others who were burn survivors. He became a teacher to me and a mentor. I would call him sometimes to ask how he would answer certain questions, advice on speaking, and advice on teaching.

He then started going on river trips with our University of Utah Burn Center I learned so much about mental health. I remember one stormy day on the river how James was paddling along side our rafts while the rolled on. He knew a secret of staying calm and still smiling in the eye of the storm.

James then went on to train me on how to train peer supporters. Then he co-trained multiple people classes with me for Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors SOAR training classes. He has made an impact on so many people.

He still continues to make an impact through those that he trained. I hope to think we take a little piece of him with us and his impact is on a forever loop, as the things he taught are taught again and again impacting infinitely!

Thank you James for being a great example to us of what a life that is fully lived looks like! You have passed on to the next stage but won't be forgotten!

— Samoana Matagi

wow is all I can say, so sorry to hear this news my heart is heavy right now and he truly will be missed. Praying strength for the family

— Dawn Brown

Thank you so much James for all you taught me and the wonderful insight you always shared when I entered the Burn world as a professional. But more than that, I loved our friendship. We were so sad to miss your birthday celebration. When we talked, you were more concerned about me and my feelings of sadness. That was how you were. Always looking out for others. I’m so happy we were able to keep your feet warm❤️ with the socks. You were a light for many and will be missed. RIP sweet friend❤️

— Bernadette and Duane Martinez-Wright

James was one of those people I always looked forward to seeing at the ABA and WBC. He was such an infectious man with the biggest smile. I will always remember you, my dancing prince🕺!

— Elena Combs

James you were truly one of a kind. I will hold our friendship close to my heart and I am a better person for knowing you.

— Scott Denman

I was deeply saddened to learn when James lost the fight for his life on this Earth. He will always be remembered by the strength, love and the imagination he brought to so many communities, including but not just our burn community.

We can cherish his legacy, but what he would likely want most, is for us to keep on fighting for the marginalized, the physically and emotionally scarred, and those who deserve better in this life.

How do we introduce JB to Newbies and long time Survivors who will never have the pleasure of meeting him in person or virtually? Tell them to imagine someone who was a diamond in real life - multifaceted, transparent, and formed from enormous temperature​s​ and pressure​s..​. And just like an elemental diamond, he was and will remain cherished by all.

Luv ya - See ya later 😘

— Rich C

I first met Jimmy when his family moved across the street from us in San Rafael. He was a busy little kid who always seemed to have a smile…..even as he was chasing his little sister, Heidi all over the place. His burn scars did not seem to slow him down and everyone even forgot about them very soon. His personality came through and took over. Strange, but I had a dream about Jimmy about the time he passed. I personally had not seen him since he was a young teen, but have followed him on Facebook and was very proud of his accomplishments. He will be missed, but more importantly, he will never be forgotten!

— Judy Freeman

After a horrible 9-year relationship, I was seeking a therapist, which led me to James. I saw his profile and read his bio, and I knew he was the one. We literally spent five years together, meeting up once a week, and the last year once every other week. I owe him so much for helping me to emotionally heal, change, and grow. Of course, he knew me like no one else, fears and all. When he told me he had to stop seeing me to focus on his healing, I was heartbroken—not because I felt like I was losing my therapist, but because I was losing someone I had come to truly care for and love. I knew how brutal pancreatic cancer could be. We texted a few times, checking in on him every so often to see how he was. I wanted to respect his boundaries, but I didn't want to lose contact with him. I texted him this morning, but I got no response back. I knew what that meant. I'm in tears now, but I have to laugh as I can hear his voice in my head from all that he gave me to help me on this path called life. Sometimes a very direct and blunt voice asking, "Do you think that is a good idea?" I'd tell him to mind his own business, and he'd tell me to shut up and listen;that's how we rolled. I wouldn't have had it any other way with James. His last words to me were, "You are a diamond, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." My last words to him were, "I love you."

— Paula Peters

James was my therapist for 7 years and helped changed the trajectory of my life. I am forever indebted to him for his kindness, patience, wisdom and positivity. He truly saw me and understood my grief, my extreme losses, and my desire to seek happiness in my life. I am a better person because of him. And I'm just so heartbroken to know he is no longer able to bring that beautiful gift to others. Thank you, James, for making my life forever better.

— Pamela King

That smile! What a kind and resilient human he was. James made you feel like there wasn't a problem that could not be solved just by being who you are. May his soul travel well to its home. Job well done, sir. We are all the better for having been touched by your light.

— Jaki Farmer and Heaven Robinson