Jim was born in Topeka, Kansas on August 10, 1925 to parents Homer and Leone. He was an only child. His family moved to Kansas City when he was a baby, spending most of his youth growing up at 74th and Holmes. He attended Southwest High School graduating in 1942. He served in the Army during WWII as part of the 100th Infantry. He served on the front lines in both German and France laying communication lines under heavy enemy fire. He is the recipient of both a purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in late 1945. Because of his first-hand combat experience, he acted as advisor to Kansas artist Matt Kirby to assure the authenticity of Matt’s sculpture, “Final Tribute”. This sculpture was of a field cross, which marked a temporary grave on the battlefield with a fallen soldier’s rifle, helmet, and dog tags. Jim personally placed several field crosses during the war. The sculpture was placed in the year 2000 for the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial located in Bedford, VA.
Upon his return to the states, Jim attended the University of Missouri and UMKC, receiving a B.S. in Business Administration. After graduation, Jim began working in furniture sales with his father at Blackwell’s Wholesale Furniture, originally located for several years at 17th and Walnut in Kansas City, then moving a few blocks to its final location at 20th and Grand. Jim reconnected with his school sweetheart, Betty---this relationship started with milk and cookies in kindergarten during nap time!---and married on July 22, 1950. They had two children, Leigh and Donna, and remained married for 73 years. Jim loved to invite friends to dinner on a moment’s notice, which required Betty to instantly become a gourmet, short-order cook using whatever happened to be on hand. She was not a fan, but no one ever complained about their meal!
In 1969, Jim and Betty purchased a 47’ cruiser that they docked at the Lake of the Ozarks. This was Jim’s pride and joy. He studied for and received his Captain’s certification which included knowledge to navigate by the stars. That came in hand one very dark night when power went out to many of the lake homes and he and the family were in the main lake channel trying to make it back to dock!
In 1981, Jim, now working with this son and daughter, close the furniture business. Shortly thereafter, he started a home giftware business with his good friend, Don Ford. They worked together until the early 1990’s. Jim couldn’t stay retired---Betty would have lost her mind!---and started another import business handling baskets of all types and sizes. He closed this business in 2000.
Jim was a jack-of-all trades, able to fix or make anything, including a kitchen full of new cabinets during a 1970’s remodel of their home in Prairie Village. Many projects were started both inside and out---sometimes finished, sometimes not---at the home he and Betty built in 1955 and remained in until 2018 when they moved to Mission Chateau Senior Living Community.
Jim is survived by his wife Betty, son Leigh, daughter Donna (Tom), granddaughters Ashleigh and Brittnye (Ray), great-granddaughters Annistyn, Zoey, and Gracyn, and cousin Roger. The family deeply thanks all of the wonderful staff and friends at Mission Chateau for their great care and support.
A private family service will be held