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As his family looked on, Jim pulled wheels up on his final flight in the early morning hours of Dec. 14, 2012, and he was gone. The sky was clear and the ceiling unlimited-perfect flying weather. A brilliant display of the Geminid meteors blazed a trail through the heavens to light his way.
Jim was born in St. Paul, Va., on Aug. 11, 1928, during the annual Perseids meteor shower. He grew up hunting and fishing in the moun-tains of southwest Virginia. It was his love of fishing that led him to become acquainted with Ira Blevins, a coal miner who was locally re-nowned for his fishing skills. Mr. Blevins also happened to be the father of a lovely mountain girl, Margie, and soon Jim was casting his lure in her direction. After numerous "fishing" expeditions, Jim attracted the prize catch of his life.
Jim's high school years were filled with sports, Boy Scouts, courting Margie, and other outdoor activities. One day, a barnstorming pilot brought his aircraft to the area, offering check rides for $5, and Jim's life was changed forever. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1948 and took flight training at Vance Army Air Field in Enid, Okla. He sent Margie a bus ticket, and they were married in the Base chapel on July 2, 1949.
Jim and Margie were stationed first in the Philippines, and later Japan, where their first daughter, Rebecca, was born in April 1951. Shorty afterwards, the winds of war swept Jim into the armed conflict in Korea, where he flew P-51 Mustangs and F-80 Shooting Stars in combat. On his 23rd birthday, he embarked on his 81st combat mission, from which he would not return for more than two years. He was shot down, and although seriously wounded, he was able to evade capture that night as the Perseid meteors flashed overhead. He was eventually captured, and was interred by communist forces in the notorious Camp Two in North Korea for the duration of the war.
During his captivity, Jim formed the deepest friendships of his life. He remained close to the men in Camp Two until death separated them, one by one. Jim enjoyed many reunions with the survivors after the war, and continued to support POW/MIA organizations through-out his life. As Jim later said, "The bond of camaraderie formed in the darkest hours can bring the magic to our memories and the healing to our hearts".
Jim was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base upon his release from captivity in 1953, and he fell in love with the area's white sand beaches and crystal clear fishing grounds. After a 27-year career, which spanned two wars, three continents, and innumerable duty stations, Jim retired from the Air Force. Among his many awards and citations are included the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Upon retirement, Jim returned to Fort Walton Beach where he started the Sundance Agency, Inc., Realtor in 1978. Using the leadership training skills he honed in the Air Force, he built the agency into the area's largest and most successful organization. His commitment to his customers, his integrity, and his well trained staff transformed the image of the local industry, and thousands of local residents from multiple generations were matched with the right home through his efforts. He was named the Realtor of the year by the local Board of Realtors in 1988.
Jim was well known for his generosity to friend and stranger alike, and for his impeccable integrity. To his friends and colleagues, Jim was known as the model Eagle Scout, always prepared, a man who took service to God, family, country, and others as his highest obligation. To his family, Jim-Pop-Dad was the world's best husband, father, and brother. He was a patriot and a hero, and his example is a light that will burn in the hearts of his survivors forever.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, J. Lincoln and Mildred Kiser. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margie B. Kiser; sister Iris Deford (and husband Edward); brother Joshua L. Kiser, Jr. (and wife Joyce); daughter Rebecca L. Kiser; son James R. Kiser Jr. (and wife Laura); son Daniel S. Kiser (and wife Alison); daughter Jennifer G. K. Ogilvie; and five grandchildren: Bethany, Joseph, Chelsea, Sarah, and Abigail.
The family wishes to express their deepest appreciation to the staff of the Emerald Coast Hospice for their compassionate and loving care and support.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Checks may be made out to the First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach, marked for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in memory of James R. Kiser.
Funeral arrangements for James R. Kiser are through McLaughlin Funeral Home in Fort Walton Beach. Services will be held Saturday, Dec. 22, at First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach, 21 First St., Fort Walton Beach., FL, with Dr. Howard Gates officiating. Visitation is at 10 a.m. Service is at 11 a.m., followed by graveside services with military honors at Beal Memorial Cemetery, corner of Beal Pkwy and Memorial Drive.
Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.mclaughlinmortuary.com.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Dec. 16 to Dec. 21, 2012