It’s easy to lose sight of the heart and soul of life, easy to let the evenings pass in a blur of mediocrity while our hourglass slowly empties. From all accounts James Varsos (better known as “Hobo Jim”) was not this sort of man.

Widely beloved as Alaska’s tireless balladeer, he was a longtime fixture at local pubs, festivals and informal backyard concerts around the fire. Wearing a beat up signature white cowboy hat, his brand of country-folk was a combination of Willie Nelson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.

But just 18 days ago, Hobo Jim announced he had untreatable, terminal cancer and didn’t expect to live more than three to six months. On the morning of Oct. 6, we lost him much sooner than expected.

He played some of his very last concerts at this year’s Alaska State Fair in Palmer, not knowing at the time that his earthly sojourn was quickly drawing to an end.

On Sept. 18, Hobo Jim posted a stark and moving account of his thoughts and emotions upon discovering that he didn’t have long. He then gave us some final thoughts just 12 days ago. These lasts communications reveal a man who trusted God and was full of gratitude for the people he was given to love. These last public comments are published below. They are a reminder to love fiercely, and with great thanksgiving.

May Jim rest in the strong arms of his Creator, and may the songs continue – now around the throne of God.


Well, the cats out of the bag so I had better write something.

The last couple days of the Alaska State Fair I was experiencing some things that didn’t seem right … mostly intense pain. I then went to play Wyoming for a night and things took a turn for the worse.

When I got back to Nashville, I went to the E.R. and was immediately hospitalized. After three days of pricks, pokes and probes I was diagnosed with end stage cancer. The cancer (which I didn’t know I had) had spread through my system and had several very large tumors.

The bottom line is that it is untreatable by chemo, radiation or surgery. I have been given a short three to six months to live. Probably more than many get.

Now, with that out of the way I would like to say I am not afraid. I have never feared death as I am good with my Lord. It is, however, VERY hard to feel the pain of those I leave behind. Especially that of my beautiful wife of 42 years. This coming on almost immediately after this spring’s loss of our only child and the tragic death of my beloved daughter in law. I love life but 2021 can go away now … I have had enough.

I have had a very blessed life until recently. I have been able to make a living making people happy, I have been able to live in a State that is the crown of God’s creation, I have seen a great deal of the world and all in all… life has been grand and fulfilling. Keep me in your hearts Alaska as you will be forever in mine.

Nearing the trails end,

Hobo Jim


I wasn’t going to post anything else for a while, but I have to say Thank You everyone. The outpouring of love and support has been absolutely amazing. I guess I am one of the lucky ones who gets to hear all of this before I go. But what you don’t realize is that you all have touched my life more. Giving me my energy and supporting me when I was playing and writing songs about things that nobody really wanted to hear about. You are all an amazing group of people that I have been so blessed to share this journey with. I only wish I could have done more for you and our state.

Know that all the love you have been sending really helps, and as I carry the love you have sent with me, I send an equal love for you to hold. – Jim

Beloved Alaskan balladeer Hobo Jim faced death with courage, gratitude

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Greg Sarber says:

    Hobo will be missed.

  • Sharon Turner says:

    Sincerely hope to see you and thank you in Lord’s realm in not too distant time. Thank you, and to your wife: let the love of folks wash over and strengthen you, until

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    God Bless you Hobo

  • Neil A DeWitt says:

    My condolences and prayers for you and your family HOBO JIM. You will be missed!

  • Walt Deal says:

    Alaska has lost one of it’s greatest citizens. I had the honor of knowing Jim and seeing his show many times. He was a great guy and a master performer. He will certainly be missed.

  • Byron Perkins says:

    Sad Day for all Alaskans, RIP

  • Steve Peterson says:

    I hate to say it, but he’s been off than we who are stuck in this troubled world, which is getting crazier and more evil by the day.
    Praying for those he has left behind.