James Widener

  • "Miss you every day my dear you are always in my heart Love..."
  • "My Opa was an amazing man that will forever be in our..."
    - Whitney Widener
  • "I have fond memories of Jim and the Widener family as a..."
    - Keith Plaskett
  • "A Little Girls Wish When I was little, a child of three, I..."
    - Sonya Jester
  • "May the love of friends and family carry you through your..."

Widener, James F. James Forrest Widener Jr., 88, of Irving, Texas died on May 17, 2012. He was born September 2, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri to James Forrest Widener Sr. and Flora Mackay Turner. Due to the Depression, the family moved to the Trinity Heights area of Oak Cliff in Dallas where his father bought a Sinclar Service Station. One of the best parts of his life came in 1930, when because of the Depression, he was sent to live with his Aunt Gertrude Dill, a grade school teacher at Mitchell Elementary in Little Rock, Arkansas. She taught him living and study habits with loving discipline, which served him well throughout his lifetime. Jim began his working career at age six by selling "The Saturday Evening Post" and "The Country Gentleman" door-to-door in St. Louis. During high school and junior college in Dallas, he could be found working at the family filling station while keeping a Dallas Morning Newspaper route. He had the most eye-popping experiences while working as a bellboy for two summers at the old Sanger Hotel in Dallas. The Texas Centennial at Fair Park came to Dallas in 1936. His mother got a job distributing student tickets to all six Dallas High Schools. She bought hundreds of regular ticket books paying $3.00 per book that sold for $6.50, which included the entrance fee and six shows. All summer he bought three books from her each day, rode the street car from home to Fair Park, stood outside the gate until they were sold, then enjoyed the park for the day with $19.50 in his pocket (an immense sum at the time). In Dallas, Jim attended Trinity Heights Grade School, Boude Story Junior High, and graduated from Sunset High School. He entered North Texas Agriculture College, in Arlington, in the fall of 1940. When Jim's father died in January 1942, it was necessary to postpone further education to support his mother and two siblings. WWII started in December and Jim received a draft deferment because he worked as a roadman and chainman on a survey crew in Lake Charles, LA. Jim was drafted on August 23, 1943. With his engineering and surveying experience he was assigned to First Army, Company B, 164th Division, Combat Engineers serving in England, France, Belgium and Germany. He received his Honorable Discharge from the US Army on February 20, 1946 from William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Jim graduated from SMU in 1950, obtaining degrees in business and law. He practiced law while representing the Dallas Title Company in Irving, Texas for the next 38 years. At age 32, he resided as Municipal Judge in Irving for three years. He felt that he did a good job as a judge due to his unwavering enforcement of the law, particularly regarding the School Board strikes in the 50s. Jim married Betty Grace Bell of Irving, Texas in 1949 and they had two children. He married Helen Marie Ogden Browning in 1971 and they had one child. Helen had three children by a previous marriage. Both Jim and Helen treated all the children as if they were their own while enjoying over 40 years of marriage. Jim & Helen owned and operated a mare farm and raced horses professionally in Texas, Louisiana & Arkansas. Their love of horses kept this operation going for over 20-years in Frankston, Texas. They spent many proud moments in the Winner's Circle. When Jim moved to Irving in the late 1940's the population was around 2,500. He was one of the leaders in Irving whose foresight, determination and imagination helped form the city in which he lived until his death. His positive and creative outlook helped to improve the City of Irving. During his life and career, he attended countless meetings, took numerous trips on behalf of Irving Chamber to politic for transportation and other critical city needs. He maintained communication with Senators, Congresspersons, Representatives, Legislators, Board Members and, most importantly, many people who had constructive input but no voice. He was a Co-Developer for Sherwood Forest residential sub-division and Central Park Shopping Center (the largest shopping center in Irving at the time) and other developments. His wit and charisma promoted cooperation between people of differing opinion helping the city move forward into the future. During his life, Jim was a world traveler, served as Chief Justice of his Legal Fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, Secretary/Treasurer of Barristers Honorary Legal Organization, Charter Member and President of Irving Jaycees, Director/President/Committee Chairman of Irving Chamber of Commerce, Member of Eastern Board of Lone Star Transportation Authority, Zoning Commission/Zoning Board of Adjustment of City of Irving, Treasurer for the Legal Sale of Mixed Beverages of Irving, City Judge for the City of Irving (1952-1955), Director of Irving Bank & Trust Company, Director of American Bank & Trust Company (Irving, TX), Special Director of Independent American Savings Association, appointed after its failure to determine if and how any value could be recovered. Additionally, he was a Director of TIF, Director of DCURD, a Member of Irving Board of Realtors, Irving Home Builders Association, JUNTO, Las Colinas Country Club, a regular attendee at the Henry Homes Breakfast Forum (House of Lords) and lifelong participant of the Coffee Shop Round Table discussions (House of Commons). Jim is survived by his loving wife of 40 years, Helen Ogden Widener of Irving; son James Forrest Widener III of Irving; daughter Stephanie Widener Hendrie and husband, Christopher Pennywitt Hendrie of Tujunga, California; son John Mackay Widener of Frankston, Texas; stepchildren Samuel David Browning of Frankston; Sonya Annette Jester of Irving; and 1SG Tad A. Browning and wife, Ki Steelman Browning of Georgetown, Texas. Grandchildren James Forrest Widener IV and Josey Curtsinger of North Richland Hills, Texas; Zachery Warren Widener of San Marcos, Texas; William Wolfgang Widener, Whitney O Widener both of Irving; Alyssa Belle Hendrie and Tessa Marie Hendrie of Dana Point, California; and step-grandchildren, Scott Christopher Hendrie of Garland, Texas; Aloria Selene Browning of Dallas, Texas; Shaun William Jester Jr., Cordia Marie Jester and Chloe Michaela Jester (who Jim personally named) all of Irving; Tad Alan Browning, Jr. of Temple, Texas; Heather Lynn Browning of Frankston; and the latest edition to the family, Jim's great grandson, James Forrest Widener V of North Richland Hills, Texas. Funeral Services to be held 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20, 2012 in the Trinity Ballroom at the Westin DFW Hotel, 4545 John Carpenter Freeway in Irving. Burial with honors presented by the Irving Fire Department Honor Guard to follow at Bear Creek Cemetery in Euless.


Published in Dallas Morning News from May 19 to May 20, 2012
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