James “Jim” Rice
July 13, 1923 – November 29, 2018
James “Jim” Rice, passed away in Clermont, FL on November 29, 2018, at the age of 95. Jim was born July 13, 1923, the youngest of eight children, and as the baby of the family, some might say he enjoyed living up to that role until his death! He always enjoyed being the center of attention but it was because he lived out the axiom touted by long ago radio and movie star Will Rogers who said “I’ve never met a stranger.” As a young boy, he was a boys’ boy and loved playing in the woods with his many friends who lived in Fairfax Al. They shot guns, hunted, and fished, sometimes taking the game home to family, but just as often frying their prizes in lard cans alongside the creek bank and feasting on their bounty. In his writings, it’s clear that there was never a risk that he would not take. When he was a young boy, his father died and Jim was left to be the man of the house. He worked multiple paper routes and later had all the paper carriers in the Valley, AL area reporting to him. Later, to help the family survive, he bluffed his way into a position to run a cotton mill loom by himself after learning what he needed to know in just one weekend how to run the shuttle. While working at the mill during World War II, he watched as all of his friends went off to war and asked why he wasn’t being called up. He was told he had a deferment, which, if you knew Jim, made him mad. He quit his job and joined the Army. After basic and special combat medic training in Texas, he was on his way to embark for Europe but he jumped the train s it passed through his hometown because his Mom had told him she had saved up her sugar rations and made him a lemon pie. After eating the pie and hugging his Mom, he took the next troop train to New Jersey to embark. Reporting in a day later than on his orders, he informed the officer in charge that he just had to have that pie his Momma made. This was the first of at least a couple of times he could probably have been facing courts martial, but it helps to illustrate his force of will and sets the tone for the later challenges he was to face in the War and his life. Off he went to World War II. He and his combat medic unit were first assigned to one of the Airborn glider units being prepared for the invasion of Europe. His unit was pulled at the last minute from the glider unit, being assigned instead to a unit designated for the Normandy invasion, day 3 on Omaha Beach. That is when he experienced his first migraine headache, a condition which plagued him for the next 45 years. Although quite ill with headaches the entire time he was in the field, he kept going. At one point an officer carried his pack because he was so sick. After Normandy, he fought in France. He shared the story of caring for a fellow who had phosphorus burns. There was nothing Jim could do for him because they were out of the gel needed to neutralize the phosphorus. He held the soldier’s as the phosphorus burned through his body, leading slowly to his death. Jim was amazed that this man did not cry out in pain, hardly even groaning, except to ask Jim to tell his wife that he loved her, which Jim did. Jim rarely cried, but when telling his own son, Randy, for the first time almost 40 years after the event about this young, brave soldier his body shook with the grief he still felt. When fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, his unit was being surrounded by the Germans. Jim volunteered to stay behind with the wounded while the able bodied effected their escape. Considering it his duty, and fully expecting that capture meant certain death because the Germans were known to be killing those captured in battle at that time, he never flinched. Fortunately for him and his future family, Patton’s troops broke through and turned back the German advance. We know that God had honored his mother’s fervent prayers for him. Upon returning from war, Jim married Wilma Alice Ratcliff and started college at Auburn University, using the new veterans education act. Soon thereafter, Randy was born. Randy and Jim always had a special relationship and unconditional love. Jim finished his undergraduate and graduate work at Auburn and took a position teaching in the south Alabama public schools. He taught for several years, hoping to be a school superintendent. Realizing that because he was not politically connected enough to advance in Alabama education systems, he decided to change directions and went into the insurance business. He worked for Farm Bureau Insurance, The Travelers, and ended his career with Liberty National. Sharon Ann, Jim and Wilma’s daughter, was born during Jim’s early years with the Travelers. She brought joy to them as she grew up to be a fabulous musician and, later, teacher and college professor. Jim was a tough boss, but always led with fairness, kindness, and character. Jim retired in 1990. In 1998, Wilma passed away and Jim decided that he needed to go to grief group. There was a pretty woman there who had been through grief group the year before. They started having coffee together, and in early 2000 they married. They had a very loving relationship, many friends, and traveled extensively. Mary Margret Martin lovingly cared for him until his death. Jim loved his grandchildren. Brent was his first grandchild and he enjoyed having Brent visit regularly in the summers. It was Jim who witnessed Brent at 4 riding his bike hands free with his feet on the bike bar. Jim even had the calm demeanor to get a picture instead of yelling to “get down!” Jim loved being a grandad and great grandad to Sharon’s daughter, Christin, and son, Jacob. He loved Kristin’s two girls, Lydia and MacKenzie, and her son, Kellan. Jim also had a great relationship with his stepdaughter Barbara, and her children, Walker and Adalan. Jim also enjoyed time with his stepdaughter Cheryl, and her daughter, Laura. Jim loved that he served his country. He proudly wore his WWII hat everywhere he went. He was strong-willed and when he thought something was right, he fought for it. He never met a stranger. Often when with him, he would stop to talk with someone and, when asked how long he had known the person, he would reply, “I never met them before.” His many friend and his children and grandchildren will all miss his ability to tell jokes, his smile, his uninhibited spontaneous singing, and how much he cared and loved each of them. One of his great friends, Wendell Rehm, writes the following about Jim: A true patriot, and a man who lived his values! He was not afraid to speak his thoughts and always willing to share his thoughts. He was true to those he loved and he loved just about everyone. To know Jim Rice was to love Jim Rice. If you were his friend, he let you know it. I enjoyed reading his writings and by doing so you find what type of man Jim Rice was. He was a Christian man and lived his faith. Jim liked to tell stories. The more fiction he could add, the better he liked it. He was a truthful man, but he liked to stretch facts. He was always willing to tell his politicians what they should do…well, that is what he said he did and I believed him. We have truly lost a great man and a true friend. He was my friend.
Family will receive friends at Ridout’s Southern Heritage Funeral Home in Pelham, AL, on December 5, 2018 starting at 10:00 AM. Funeral services will start at 11:00 AM. Jim will be laid to rest with military honors at Southern Heritage Cemetery immediately following the services at the funeral home.
- Visitation Wednesday, December 5, 2018
- Funeral Service Wednesday, December 5, 2018
James “Jim” Rice
December 2, 2018
I am are so sorry to hear of James passing. I have fond memories of him and Wilma coming to our house when I was growing up and also at Aunt Emma’s house when we would visit. Thoughts and prayers for all of you during this time. Love ❤️ you guys!
December 2, 2018
My Great Uncle, very much loved and missed. Robert, Vinita and Jacob