James Russell Bethea (Jim) entered into eternal life on Monday, July 07, 2014, after passing away quietly in his home surrounded by loved ones, and at peace. |
Born August 15th 1936 in Houston, Texas, to Aubrey and Ethel Ruth, Jim graduated from Reagan High School in 1954 and completed his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Houston in 1958. He was an avid sports fan, accomplished athlete, respectable fisherman, jitterbug champion, and just a damn fine human being. His sport of choice was baseball, and as a child he was a member of many local "select" teams, until being a key contributor to the 1952 State Champion Regan Bulldogs. After high school Jim became a starting outfielder for the University of Houston from 1956-1958 where he was named All Missouri Valley Conference and a Honorable Mention All American. While attending college he voluntarily entered into the Army National Guard in 1957, training as a medic. Upon graduation he started his professional baseball career after being signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1959, where he spent 3 years in their farm system.
In 1961 Jim's pro baseball career was cut short when he was called to active duty as a Private in the US Army. Shortly after reporting to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas it was discovered that Jim was an ex-pro baseball player and he was quickly added to the softball roster, where, as he put it, "wore their asses out on the field". Jim dutifully provided military service to his country for eight years as a medic until being honorably discharged with accommodations in 1965. After pro ball and military service Jim took his skills and heavy hitting to the Major City Fast Pitch Softball League where he continued to shine, and in 2012 received induction to the Softball Legends Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game.
As you would expect Jim's love of sports never faded. After he hung up the cleats professionally he became a successful salesman for Oshman's Sporting Goods, CNS Athletics, Pasadena Sporting Goods, and later Barcelona Sports where he supplied sporting equipment to hundreds of schools across the state of Texas for over thirty-seven years until his retirement in 2002. His efforts lead to many great friendships and left behind many satisfied customers.
Jim was fortunate to be able to share much of his life with his loving companion, Betty Bethea. Whether they were winning trophies for their moves on the dance floor, arguing over who was the better fisherman (though he knew the truth), recovering from surgeries, enjoying the company of family and friends, or reminiscing their decades together in his final weeks on Earth, they were always there for one another.
Jim's spirit is carried on by his wife Betty and their daughters Cindy and Cil, his siblings Bill Bethea, & Jackie Hooker, son-in-law Bruce Collins, grandchildren Bruce, Chance, and Travis, great-grandchildren Riley, Jocelyn, Graham, and Lincoln, granddaughter-in-law Maegan, his beloved dog Brutus, as well as numerous nephews, nieces, cousins, extended family, former teammates, and friends. He is preceded in death by his parents Aubrey and Ethel Ruth.
Jim's family would like to invite friends and family to join them for a visitation at Heights Funeral Home on Thursday, July 10th from 6-8pm. A celebration of life will be held the following morning at Heights Funeral Home on Friday, July 11th at 11:00am. Following the celebration you are welcome to join the family as Jim is laid to rest at South Park Cemetery, 1310 N. Main St. Pearland, TX 77581.
Our family would also like to give a special thanks to Gentiva Hospice, Jim's nurses Sharon and LaToya, and Dr. Tavel for the excellent care they provided.
"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." - Thomas Campbell
To our beloved James, a.k.a. Jim, Bertha, Jimmy B., Babe, Dad, Papaw, and Old-Man Papaw you've left a void that we cannot fill, and to have known you has made us all better people. You will live forever in our hearts, and will never be forgotten.
Published in Houston Chronicle on July 9, 2014