James Donald King
March 29, 1927 – June 19, 2020
James Donald King was born in Cleveland, Ohio on March 29, 1927, and was born to Eternity with his Lord on June 19, 2020.
He was the only son of Robert Nelson King and Ethel Ewing King, who had moved to Cleveland from rural Columbiana County, Ohio, before Jim’s older sister Dorothy was born. Jim grew up in the Shaker Heights suburb of Cleveland where he excelled in academics, particularly engineering and design. At the age of 14 he built a gas-powered Victory Messenger Car to collect and recycle items for the war effort, a newsworthy feat that was the first of his many engineering innovations. Local neighbors used Jim’s Victory Messenger Car Service to deliver scrap rubber to the nearest gas station, transport strained grease to the butcher, and send books to the library for servicemen abroad.
Jim loved spending part of his summer vacations working alongside cousins Evelyn King, Harold King, and Edith King Binsley on his Uncle Edwin and Aunt Eva King’s family farm in Hanoverton, Ohio, where the farming machinery was a source of great interest. Jim also loved music and enjoyed playing the tuba in the Shaker Heights High School Marching Band. Fifty years later, he delighted family and friends when he decided to start playing the tuba again and joined the Hillcrest Church Orchestra.
After graduating high school at 17, Jim went to Case School of Applied Science (now Case Western Reserve) to register for his first semester of fall courses. The registrar told Jim about a scholarship exam being given that day and encouraged Jim to take it. Jim took the exam without any preparation and won the scholarship! After a year of college, Jim enlisted in the Navy. He eventually returned to Case as a WWII veteran and earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1949.
In 1948 Jim met the love of his life, Virginia Ann Murray, on a blind date for a Theta Chi Fraternity party. Virginia teased Jim that he must not have been very impressed because he waited six months to ask her out again! However, Jim was totally smitten on the second date. They married in 1950 and dedicated their lives to one another as committed, loving partners for life. Their marriage was a beautiful picture of dedication, devotion, and sacrifice. Jim always looked for the best in everyone and never spoke a negative word about anyone. A strong Christian with enormous faith, Jim read the bible cover-to-cover every other year for decades. Jim’s enormous kindness and self-discipline allowed the family to flourish.
During 61 years of marriage, Jim and Virginia enjoyed church, travel, dancing, bridge, and most of all family. Jim cherished his two daughters, Judy and Joanie, and played with them every night after dinner. He took his daughters swimming in the summer and skating and toboggan sledding in the winter, encouraged their academic pursuits and participation in competitive sports, and attended every event his schedule permitted. Jim planned wonderful vacation adventures, driving the family across the country to visit Daytona Beach, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Disneyland, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Jim and Virginia also took the family on many family cruises, starting in 1960 when Jim, Virginia, Judy, Joanie, and Jim’s parents, Nelson and Ethel King, boarded a ship in Miami headed for Nassau/Paradise Island (then known as Hog Island) in the Bahamas.
In the following years, grandson Jim Brienza would join them as they cruised Hawaii, Bermuda, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and many other locales, creating treasured memories. When Virginia’s health started to fail in 2007, Jim devoted himself entirely to her care until she joined her Father in Heaven on October 9, 2011. His enormous kindness, dedication, and self-discipline during this difficult period inspired everyone.
Jim was Superintendent of Plant Engineering for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors in Cleveland for 14 years before accepting a position with Collins Radio in Dallas related to strategic intelligence and national defense. During the Cold War, Jim worked extensively in Iran and Australia on now declassified Pine Gap, an intelligence facility that collected information on the testing of Soviet missiles. When Jim decided to take early retirement at age 58, government officials stepped in and told Rockwell International that Jim needed to remain on their projects. Rockwell International hired Jim as an independent consultant the day after he retired. For the next 5 years, every government contract renewal stipulated that Jim participate.
Jim retired from his consulting business in 1990 and pursued several absorbing hobbies aligned to his engineering and music interests. He began to build a complex model train layout in 1988, expanding and tweaking the layout features throughout the remainder of his life. The huge set eventually followed him into his apartment at Edgemere where he would run train demonstrations (https://youtu.be/xgYDF3_MuAk) to the delight of friends and neighbors. He joined the Edgemere choir, performing in wonderful programs twice a year. He also loved to sing base in his quartet, The Harmoneers ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NSy0FOkiwo), that formed as an offshoot of the choir.
Throughout their marriage, Jim and his wife Virginia had enjoyed playing bridge. Jim’s retirement allowed them to dedicate more time to this shared hobby. They led the Richardson Senior Center duplicate bridge group for over 11 years, played duplicate with their neighborhood group for over 40 years, and joined several new groups after their move to Edgemere.
One of the special delights in Jim’s life was his namesake grandson, Jim. Having raised two girls, Grandpa Jim loved and excelled in the role of teacher, mentor, fan and role model, dedicating himself to shared activities with his grandson. Unquestionably “Young Jim’s” character, his outstanding contributions in military and national service, and the strength of his own young family are the legacies of his dear Grandpa King.
Jim was preceded in death by wife, Virginia Murray King; sister, Dorothy King Walter; and brother-in-law, John C. (“Jack’) Walter. He is survived by daughters, Judith Ann King and Joanie King Norwood; son-in-law, Mark H. Norwood; grandson, James Richard Brienza, and wife, Elizabeth Kreft Brienza; great-granddaughters, Evangeline Brienza and Audrey Brienza; niece, Martha Mae Walter and wife, Suzy Hagar; nephew, Robert Walter, and wife, Lily Walter; niece, Carolyn Walter-Herriage, and husband, Darrell Herriage; grandnephew, John Walter, and wife, Lisa Walter; and great-grandnieces, Brooklyn Walter and Emma Walter.
Jim will be laid to rest next to wife, Virginia, in Restland Cemetary in Richardson, TX on June 26. Due to COVID-19, the memorial service has been postponed until Spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Green Beret Foundation or Doctors Without Borders.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
James Donald King
June 27, 2020
I have fond memories of Uncle Jim setting up our croquet course out at Cedar Creek Lake. Now he took this very seriously, he measured precisely from each wicket to the next to make sure the course was as accurate as possible so that the victor could claim the true championship! We would all set about to get our mallets and balls and plan our strategies, or not, and on the battle would ensue. Back and forth we would go, in and out of the wickets trying to knock out our opponents with great precision. You could tell Uncle Jim was calculating in his mathematical mind exactly his next move. Usually the winner would be the one who lagged behind the whole time and then came charging from behind and surprised us all out of nowhere!! Then we moved on to setting off our legal 4th of July firecrackers. He had that down to a science as well. All laid out knowing what each kind would do and we would watch in amazement. Then we would end with a badminton tournament. It usually would be dusk and harder and harder to see the birdie so it would usually end in a tie with a lost birdie somewhere in a bush!! All in all, Uncle Jim knew how to have fun after serving us barbecue for lunch!! Great memories with a very fun Uncle and two marvelous cousins in Judy and Joanie and her husband Mark!!
June 27, 2020
I am blessed with the memory of walking into the "Train Room" in his apartment at Edgemere, and having him start it for me.
It was an amazing setup; the bells and whistles, and the infield with the depot and surrounding small-town constructions.
I remember looking up at his face. His smile was wide and his face joyful as he watched me reacting to the magic he'd created!
I also have great memories of "girls" weekends spent at their lake house.
Joanie and Judy are blessed to have had this wonderfully imaginative man and lovely mother, Virginia as parents, and I know they adored Jim.
I'm imagining that they are now reunited and in God's arms for eternity.
Celebrate and rejoice in memories.
All my love to each of you-
June 26, 2020
Dear Judy, Joanie, and Jim,
I only met your dad a few times, but it was always such a delight to be around him. My heart is with you all during this time, and I am thankful that you have so many precious memories to cherish. With love,