James Eric Akers, a long-time resident of Jacksonville, died peacefully on September 18, 2019, after a brief illness. He was 73.
Jim, the youngest of three children, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas on October 14, 1945, to Ward E. Akers and Dorothy Erb Akers Pechin. The family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he graduated from Overton High School in 1963. In 1968 Jim received a Bachelors in Social Science from Vanderbilt University and a Masters of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1971. After completing his education, Jim served his country in the United States Army National Guard for 30 years, achieving the rank of Colonel and was a member of the National Guard Officers Association. It was during this time that Jim discovered his love of flying, especially helicopters. Jim began his career in 1971 as General Manager at TGI Friday's in Nashville, and in 1973 moved to Jacksonville where he served in the same capacity at Annie Tiques Restaurant and Bar, a popular venue. It was at Annie Tiques that he became known as "Captain Whirlybird" where he entertained nightly delighting customers with his well-known off the wall antics including his unique talent of "playing the bottles" which led to a concert with the Jacksonville Symphony where he entertained the crowd with his "musical talent". He thoroughly enjoyed music and nature and spent time in his cabin in North Carolina. In 1980, drawing on his experience and love of flying helicopters Jim served as Director of Life Flight and Special Projects at Baptist Medical Center. He continued to work in the medical field as Vice President of Marketing, Planning, and Development for Jacksonville Faculty Practice Association. In the 10 years preceding his death he was a successful commercial real estate broker. Jim was passionate about serving others and began a long and successful role as a fundraiser for many charitable and non-profit organizations benefitting many groups with his talent and generosity. He was Master of Ceremonies for the Children's Miracle Network Telethon for six years, Chief Auctioneer for WJCT-TV, Jacksonville's public television station, for fifteen years, and in 2003 was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the PBS station. He was a member of the American Heart Association, President of the local Board of Directors for Suicide Prevention Services and was involved with the American College Healthcare Marketing and the Alliance for Healthcare Strategy as well as the Superior Vena Cava Syndrome Center. Jim was also on the Board of Directors of New Heights of Northeast Florida. Jim was a longtime member of the Mandarin Rotary, and in 1990 was named a Paul Harris Fellow and was also named Rotarian of the Year in 2001. At Christmas time he became Santa Claus for many children of Mandarin Rotary, the neighborhood, and various organizations.
Jim is survived by his loving wife of 28 years, Marie Orcigr Akers, his son, Eric, a sister, Dorothy Akers Thompson, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life will take place Monday, October 7th at 12 p.m. at WJCT-TV, 100 Festival Park Ave. Jacksonville, Florida 32202.
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