James Benjamin (Jim) Epperson, Sr., passed away peacefully, on the afternoon of Thursday April 23, 2015.
Jim was born in Mohawk, Tennessee, on August 17, 1921. He was the youngest of nine children, born to the late William Harrison Epperson and Mary Knight Epperson. Jim's Father died, when he was 3 years old. Jim started school at the Tennessee Industrial School, in Nashville, TN., when he was 9 years old. He attended school there for 2 years, returning home to East Tennessee in 1932. By 1933, in order to earn money to help the family in the Great Depression, he picked grocery orders, and delivered them, on a 12 mile bike route, for 50 cents a day. His older brothers and sisters worked in a furniture upholstery plant in Greeneville, TN. By 1936, that plant went bankrupt. The family moved to North Carolina in 1936, after finding jobs at an upholstery plant in Statesville.
In 1938, at Statesville High School, he met Mary Eleanor Grier, who became the love of his life. While at SHS, he played baseball and football. In 1939, his Mother grew homesick for East Tennessee, and chose to return home. By that time, Jim's brothers and sisters were out of the home. That left Jim without a place to live. However, by this time, he was so in love with his sweet Mary, he decided to stay in Statesville, no matter what! He also wanted to graduate from SHS. His story might have turned out differently, if he had not made so many friends. His fellow football players would have him stay a couple days at a time with them. Everything changed, when he stayed at the Webster's house. Mrs. Webster, affectionately known as "Mom", asked him how long he would stay. He replied, "A day or two, or three." Mom then asked where he would go, when he left. He answered, that he would go to the Jones's, the Lackey's or the Morrison's. Mom replied that he should just stay with them. Because of that tremendous act of love and kindness, he was able to graduate from SHS, and court Miss Mary. In 1940, he was a starter on the Conference Championship Football team, as well as being the Senior Class President at SHS. He was nicknamed "Snake Hips", because of his running style as a halfback. Few people ever knew he never had a pair of cleats that fit him. He couldn't afford the shoes, and always played with someone else's hand me downs, which were typically a size or two, too large. He graduated from SHS in 1941.
He enlisted in the US Army on August 29, 1942. On March 6, 1943, he went in to active duty at Charlotte, NC. Jim served in Squadron B, 3502nd Army Air Force Base Unit, as a gunner, in the A-20 Low range fighter plane. He served in the Mediterranean Theatre, flying 60 combat missions over Italy, Southern France, Sicily, and Northern Africa. He attained the rank of Staff Sargent, and was awarded the EAME (European African Middle Eastern) Ribbon with 4 Bronze Stars, an Air Medal with the Oak Leaf Cluster, and a good conduct medal. He was honorably discharged at Chanute Field, Illinois, on October 28, 1945.
During his active duty, he was granted a 3 day pass, to come home and marry Mary Grier, on February 26, 1944, at the home of Rev. J.H. Pressly, in Statesville, NC. Jim and Mary enjoyed 42 years of marriage, until her untimely death, on February 14, 1986. After his discharge from service, he returned to Statesville, where he worked at a drug store, and a tire store, before the lumber business came calling. In the fall of 1947, he went to work at Sherrill Lumber, a fine local retail company, where he stayed almost 10 years. Another opportunity came out of that job that put him in the wholesale lumber business, where he supplied customers, such as his former employer. In 1958, he, Bob Wilder, and Garner Bagnal, formed Forest Products, Inc., where he remained until the end of 1971. At age 50, he started Epperson Lumber Sales, Inc., at his home, on Henkel Road.
Under his leadership and integrity, Epperson Lumber grew as a company with the finest of reputations. The company was a leading supplier of specialty lumber products in the Southeastern US. If Jim gave you his word, that was better than a signed document. Jim not only employed many people, but mentored them, as well. Always quick with a smile and a handshake, Jim made countless friends over his lifetime, all over North America. He was a great ambassador in the lumber business. For his entire adult life, he looked 15-20 years younger than his age. He made friends with every age group, all the way from seniors to children.
On March 28, 2001, he married Nita Aaron. They enjoyed many days at Hound Ears Golf Club, in Blowing Rock, NC, as well as winters in Winter Haven, Florida. Their marriage lasted until her death on October 15, 2010.
The family collectively mourns the passing of this humble American hero. His Memorial Service will be held at 3:00 PM, Sunday, May 3, at Broad Street United Methodist Church, 315 W. Broad Street, Statesville, NC, with the Revs. Michael Gehring and Jennifer Bingham officiating. Visitation will follow the service in Memorial Hall, at the Church. A private burial will take place at another time, with full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, Memorials may be made to Iredell Christian Ministries, 752 Old Salisbury Road, Statesville, NC. 28677, or The Children's Hope Alliance, P. O. Box 1, Barium Springs, NC. 28010, or the Backpack Ministry at Broad Street United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 169, Statesville, NC. 28687, or to the Church or charity of one's choice.
Online condolences may be made to the family at nicholsonfunerals.com.
Nicholson Funeral Home is serving the family of James B. Epperson, Sr.
Bio by: Amby (Joyce) & Jerry
FEB 26, 1944 , Father, Hero, Great American
Mary Grier Epperson
1924–1986 (m. 1944)
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