Dr. James J. Pullen
Dr. James J. Pullen
Dr. James J. Pullen

May 30, 1945 - September 24, 2021
Born in Ida Grove, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa


James Joel Pullen, known to many as “Jim,” died at age 76 on Friday, September 24, 2021, at Wesley Acres in Des Moines, Iowa. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 27, at 11am at Plymouth Church, 4126 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines Ia, 50312 (with safety guidelines), followed by burial at Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.

James was born May 30, 1945, in Ida Grove, Iowa, to Charles and Josephine (Hirons) Pullen. He attended Morningside College, then seminary at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and finally medical school at the University of Iowa. There, he met and married his first wife, Leanna Bell, in 1973. They moved to the Twin Cities area for his medical residency. Their first child, Jason, was stillborn. Their surviving children, Sam and Emily, were born in Stillwater, MN. In 1984, the family moved back to Iowa, where Jim remained in Des Moines until his death. Leanna died at age 45 after a five year struggle with multiple myeloma, an event that shaped all of their lives. He lived for more than 30 years with early-onset Parkinson's disease. He was married to his second wife, Deanna, for 5 years.

James worked as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Broadlawns Medical Center for 18 years, retiring in 2002. He was a member at various churches throughout the years, including First United Methodist, St. John’s Lutheran, and Plymouth UCC. He was involved with AMOS Iowa, the American Parkinson Disease Association, Physicians For Social Responsibility, the Rainbow Ministry Team at St. Johns, Golden K Kiwanis Club, Torch professional group, and Orchard Place. He was civic minded and generous with his time and money. He frequently wrote personal letters to church leaders and politicians. He always said that every good family of musicians needs at least one listener, and he was always there to support, whether it was the choral music and opera of his wife, the classical violin and mariachi music of his son, or the folk and acapella music of his daughter. He enjoyed golf, fishing, camping, traveling, cribbage, Jeopardy!, Volvos, popcorn, and milkshakes.

James is survived by his son, Samuel Bell Pullen (Elizabeth Gonzalez) of Culver City, CA; daughter, Emily Bell Pullen (Courtney Gillette) of Beacon, NY; siblings Mark (Darlene) Pullen, Nancy (Dan) Gardner, and Steve (Jan) Pullen; and the light of his life, grandchild, Lilyana Pullen-Gonzalez. He was preceded in death by his father, Charles Leonard Pullen; mother, Josephine Hirons Pullen; wife, Leanna Bell; and his stillborn son, Jason.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Bell-Pullen Arts & Culture Scholarship Fund, which, for more than 20 years, has provided funds for high school students to receive music and art instruction at Drake University and the Des Moines Art Center. Donations may be sent via check to the Bell-Pullen Arts & Culture Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines (1915 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309) or through their website:





Funeral Home
Dunn's Funeral Home
2121 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50312