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July 10, 1940 ~ March 21, 2023 (age 82) 82 Years Old
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J.B. “Jim” Lathem, 82, of Wills Point, Texas, passed in peace on March 21, 2023–the first, full day of his favorite season, spring. He was held by his wife and daughter as he transitioned from this life into the next.
A memorial service will be held Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at 11:00 am. at Russell Memorial Methodist, located at 201 S. Fourth Street, Wills Point, TX 75169. Refreshments will be served following the service.
J.B. was born at home to Julia May and Jim Bob in 1940, near Rainey’s Chapel, Texas. He was the middle of three children, including Gladys and Joseph. He attended Riley and Edgewood Schools, graduating as salutatorian in 1959. His classmates recalled his boundless curiosity and dedicated participation in FFA. A tree showing one of his early grafting experiments still thrives on the grounds of the old high school on Highway 80. At the request of his mother, he planned to study pharmacy, though it was not his passion. He had barely arrived at University of Texas when his mother passed away. Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963, and was sent to Fort Benning to serve his country with the intention of returning to college after his duty was complete. He earned accolades in good conduct and sharpshooting. After his discharge, he took a job shimmying up poles and making repairs for a phone company in Vermont. He returned to the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration in 1968.
In 1969, with $100 in his pocket, he drove his ‘49 coupe to an employment agency in Dallas. With the promise of 50% of his first paycheck, he began his career with State Farm Insurance. While living in the ‘big city’, Jim was introduced to Barbara through a mutual friend. Ever a gentleman, Jim took his blind date to Three Into Two Won’t Go and they sparked a connection that would last for 53 years. They married in 1970, and soon relocated to Bloomington, Illinois for a position in time and motion studies in work-measurement at State Farm’s corporate office. It was there, in central Illinois, where they raised their daughter and excelled in their careers.
Jim was active as a Master Mason with Normal Lodge #673. He was an avid apiarist or, as he would say, “A fancy word for beekeeper.” Jim had a number of hives on his urban homestead in Normal, and he and his daughter would extract, process, and bottle the honey for sale at local farmer’s markets on weekends. He had exceptional skills and expertise in cultivating flora and fauna alike. Jim was an active member and judge for the African Violet Society; his basement, which he personally dug out and finished, was perfumed with succulents, African violets, and orchids. His hands always busy, he spent his down-time on business trips learning to knit. A lifelong learner, he earned his M.S. in Applied Computer Science from Illinois State University in 1995.
Jim’s adoration for nature and learning were only surpassed by his love for family and friends. Jim never met a stranger, and his generosity was unmatched. He was a voluble raconteur, loyal, magnanimous, and deeply spiritual. If he sensed that you were in need of assistance, he was first to volunteer and last to request credit. A fiercely independent and creative critical-thinker, he raised his daughter to be the same. He often remarked, “Isn’t she somethin’ else?” when amused or marveling at her antics or achievements. Affirmations and acknowledgements were freely gifted by Jim; he had a strong sense of gratitude and wonder.
Thoughts turned home to Texas; in 2002, State Farm honored his 33 years of service. From 1997-2003, Jim assisted in the design and construction of his dream home in Texas, where he spent his formative years. He was intentional in crafting a space for his beloved wife to create quilts and gather an unrivaled stash of fabric and thread. In 2003 -besides his collections of books, clocks, and tools- he relocated his precious daylilies to their new home. Jim hoped to spend the remainder of his Earth-side days living, building, and harvesting at “The Oaks.” This, as everything Jim set out to do, was accomplished.
Jim was preceded in death by: parents, siblings, kinfolk, and friends. He is survived by his brother, Joseph; wife, Barbara; daughter, Angela (Sam) Lathem-Ballard, and cherished granddaughter, Norah– born at home, just as he was.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Jim’s honor to The Friends of the Van Zandt County Sarah Norman Library. The family shares their appreciation of Parkland Medical Center physicians and chaplains who supported Jim’s care and comfort in his final days.