James M. Gauntt

October 17, 1954April 15, 2021

James Mason Gauntt, age 66, passed away on April 15, 2021 after a brief illness. James led a full life despite his lifelong challenges with autism and an intellectual disability. He was a contemplative soul with a determined spirit. Throughout his adult life, James lived in the group homes managed by Orange Grove Center and its dedicated house parents- specifically Lamar Freeman, the late John Chamberlin, and Cindy Chamberlin.

James began attending Orange Grove Center in 1965. Upon graduation, he supported himself for thirty-two years in the Orange Grove workshop and at the John Germ Recycling Center with his wages and social security benefits. James assembled pens and was known for his manual dexterity and speed. He was a diligent worker and was often praised for his dedication and determination in ‘getting the job done”. During his time off, James enjoyed a life full of love, family and adventure. James lived in both France and Germany as a military brat. The family moved stateside to Texas before settling in Chattanooga.

The services that Orange Grove Center offered people with James’ disability and deep family roots in Chattanooga made it the perfect choice for the James and his four siblings. James’ mother grew into a formidable activist for the rights of the developmentally disabled in Tennessee and nationally. Her vision for the developmentally disabled along with support from Orange Grove and James’ house parents ensured that James maximized his abilities and enjoyed life to the greatest extent possible. Rather than focusing on what James could not do, his family and circle of support focused on what James could do. He enjoyed attending Orange Grove Summer Camp at the Double G Ranch. He was an active participant in the Special Olympics (swimming and later, track and field). James took amazing trips as an adult to Alaska, Ireland, and the Bahamas. Most summers, he went deep sea fishing in Jamaica, Florida or Gulf Shores. He loved being out on a SeaDoo and was a good swimmer (albeit his own style.) He often went to Gatlinburg in the fall to enjoy the earth’s beauty closer to home.

With his incredible manual dexterity and his unique visual-spatial technique, James was an expert at working complex jigsaw puzzles. Every Christmas and birthday brought him ever more complex puzzles from friends and family. James could complete a 1000 piece puzzles in record time. All those who observed him working these puzzles never understood his methodology, rarely replicated it and were amazed at his expertise and speed.

James is preceded in death by his parents Lt. Colonel James D. Gauntt and Ann D. Gauntt.

He is survived by his sisters- Sarah Gaunt (Signal Mountain), Marianne Justin (Signal Mountain) and Katherine Gauntt (Atlanta, Georgia) and brother John Gauntt (Redmond, Washington). He has several nieces and nephews – Laura Burgette; Matthew Reeves, Andrew Reeves, Akane Gauntt and Alex Gauntt as well as Hazel Burgette (grandniece ) and Grady Reeves (grand-nephew) in addition to several cousins and his surviving Aunt Connie DuPre.

The family will be hosting an outdoor celebration of the life of James Gauntt on Friday, April 30th between 4pm and 6pm at Blue Goose Hollow Pavilion located at 876 W 9th Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37402. This outdoor location was purposefully chosen so we may fully observe all CDC Covid restrictions to ensure that people whose lives James may have touched could attend while feeling safe. Masks and social distancing are required. The celebration will occur rain or shine.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests those who express sympathy to consider a donation to Orange Grove Center; any other organization that supports individuals with special needs; or a charity of their choice. In addition, the family asks that you consider donations of puzzles in his memory to children’s homes, nursing homes, veterans hospitals or other institutions where individuals reside who would be stimulated by the mental challenges working a puzzle brings. It was that one little act of kindness when someone gave James his first puzzle that brought him a lifetime of pleasure.

There will be private graveside Celebration of James’ Life to be held in the Chattanooga National Cemetery where he will be laid to rest with his parents.

Arrangements are under the care of Chattanooga Funeral Home Crematory and Florist East Chapel, 404 South Moore Rd. East Ridge, TN 37412.

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James M. Gauntt

have a memory or condolence to add?

Tera Roberts

April 30, 2021

It was our honor to love James and learn from him.

Our sincere condolences to his family and to all those touched by James' well-lived life.