James Reno Watkins Sr., 82, died peacefully the morning of Dec. 14, 2007, at Joanne's House at Hope Hospice, Bonita Springs, Fla.
Born in Hayti, Mo., on May 9, 1925, James was a devout Christian and family man. He loved dancing, hunting, fishing and golf with friends, especially at Moila Country Club in St. Joseph, Mo., where, after 18 holes, he could be found playing gin rummy on many an afternoon.
In 1949, James graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He was with Swift & Co. for three years, then moved to Tampa, Fla., and worked for Herman Sausage. In 1957 he joined Wire Rope Corp. of America, and three years later he was promoted and moved his family to corporate headquarters in St. Joseph. James retired as the national account executive after 30 years with the company.
James moved to Bonita Beach with beloved wife, Nita, in 1995. He was fondly called the "Bird Man" of Bonita Beach because of his uncanny bond with the herons who fished with him daily, especially one loyal egret he named "Iggy." James loved to fish, but fishing was mostly a vehicle for meeting people and making friends.
A member, deacon and elder of First Presbyterian Church in St. Joseph, then a member of First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs, Jim sang loudly and proudly in both choirs. In fact he sang -- and danced -- everywhere he went. Dancing is how he met Nita more than 60 years ago, and dance through life is what he did. Always quick to smile, Jim was all business at work and all play at home -- a delight to his wife, children, grandchildren and friends.
In 1943, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as an aviation radioman during World War II until an honorable discharge in May of 1946. He was a member of the American Legion and was in the process of transferring to Post 303 when he died. His devotion to God, country and family will always be an inspiration to those he leaves behind.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Jesse Ann Watkins and father, Thomas Lee Watkins, as well as brother, Maurice Lee Watkins, and sister, Anna Sue Rond. Jim leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Nita Maxine Watkins; daughter Valerie Ann and son-in-law Dale E. Holcomb of Louisville, Ky.; sons James R. Watkins Jr. of St. Peters and Mark Raymond Watkins and daughter-in-law Sara of Danville, Calif. James also leaves four grandchildren, Kristen Elizabeth Beaudoin of Chicago, Todd Joseph Holcomb of Louisville, Andrew Thomas Watkins of St. Peters and Kyle Patrick Watkins of Danville. James' first great-grandchild is expected in April 2008. Granddaughter Kristen and her husband Michael were able to share the happy news with James when they visited him and Nita in August of this year.
Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007, at Walter Shikany's Bonita Funeral Home, 28300 Tamiami Trail S., Bonita Springs.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, 2007, in the Price Chapel at the First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs, Bonita Beach Road.
Memorial gifts may be made to the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, Joanne's House at Hope Hospice, First Presbyterian Church in St. Joseph or the First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs.