Born on September 7, 1964 and raised in Valley City, North Dakota and later Lake Benton, Minnesota where he graduated High School, James Derheim attended college at Mankato State University where he pursued a degree in Mass Communications. After two years of working up to three jobs to support himself and pay tuition, James decided to let the U.S. Navy train him in his chosen field. He volunteered for a five-year stint, which was extended to a highly-rewarding 10-year career as a Navy photojournalist, radio and television broadcaster and Navy spokesman, serving tours in Adak, Alaska; Misawa, Japan; and finally, Darmstadt, Germany; a special nomination assignment where he was one of only two sailors on a staff of more than 500 professional civilian journalists and photographers. He achieved the rank of Petty Officer First Class.
While assigned to The European Stars and Stripes, James covered such varying events as the fall of the Berlin Wall to the War in the Gulf, from a momentous eruption of Mt. Etna (where he photographed the active, lava-spewing volcano while suspended from a hovering Marine helicopter) to travel assignments in Egypt and Spain. His photographs have appeared in The International Herald Tribune and The Washington Post as well as thousands published in ‘Stripes during his five years there. During his time in Europe, he photographed events and places in more than a dozen countries, including all of central and western Europe plus Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and a trip to Siberia on a relief flight that delivered food and medicine to citizens in the city of Semipalatinsk.
In 1990, during his second year of service in Germany, James had the idea of providing photographs, maps and other detailed information to people researching their family history in Europe. During the heyday of this business (James likes to say, ‘BG’ or ‘Before Google’) James completed projects in more than 2,200 towns and villages for his clients with interest in seeing where their ancestors came from in Europe. Many of his clients have German heritage, so his language skills in this area played a key part in the success of that business, effectively killed off by Google and free photos available online. (Of questionable quality, but free)
James started a private tour company in 1996 to satisfy the strong desire of those individuals or small groups of family members who want to walk their ancestral roads in person, but who cringe at the thought of a mass-produced bus tour. Many genealogy enthusiasts have enjoyed their own “European Focus Private Tour” with James since he inaugurated his tours. James and Jenean have branched out to developing and leading tours that are not in any way connected to family history, but for those who just want to relax and let someone else do the planning, leveraging their combined more than four decades of European travel and work experience in order to build the perfect trip for each individual client. James spends from the beginning of April to the end of October working for his clients in Europe. When James is not producing projects or leading tours for his clients in Europe, he lives with his wife Jenean, in Sarasota, Florida. From November, 2003 to January 1, 2013 they owned and operated a shop there, European Focus Village, where they sold unique items imported from all over Europe. The Derheims closed the retail operation so that they could concentrate more of their attention on their demanding tour business.