James ‘Jim’ Russell Showalter
James ‘Jim’ Russell Showalter
JOHNS CREEK, Georgia – James “Jim” Russell Showalter, 89, formerly of Van Wert, died Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Johns Creek, Georgia.

He was born Jan. 20, 1928, at home, 841 Lesson Ave., in Van Wert, the son of the late Victor Clarence Showalter and Dollie Lydia Ann (Mowrey) Showalter, who divorced in 1951. His family moved to 115 S. Vine St., Van Wert, where he was raised and attended Van Wert City Schools at Franklin Elementary School (4th Ward), and graduated from VWHS, Class of 1946.

He married N. Joan Ladd, Marsh Foundation and VWHS 1945, on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1949, in the chapel of the now First United Methodist Church in Van Wert. She preceded him in death on Oct. 19, 2003. They dated throughout high school after Jim watched Joan swing the bat and crack a softball around the ceiling of the basement gym. He asked his friend, Gene Wable, VWHS 1945, the name of this amazing girl. They went steady till they were married.

Jim attended Michigan State College, East Lansing, Michigan, on a football scholarship into his sophomore year, when he decided to concentrate on his forestry degree. He spent the summer of 1947 in the Umpqua National Forest, Oregon, with on the ground and fire lookout tower forestry training. He hitch-hiked across the USA to-and-from this summer forestry camp. In 1949, he was at camp at Dunbar State Forest, Upper Michigan peninsula, near the Canadian border.

During their senior year, Joan and Jim married. After his 1950 graduation, they moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Jim worked at a furniture manufacturing company and Joan worked at a bank. They moved back to Van Wert in 1953 to work with his brother, Tom Showalter, in Showalter Sporting Goods. About 1966, Jim left the business. He became a life insurance agent for the Franklin Life Ins. Co. for nearly 30 years until his retirement.

They moved to Roswell, Georgia in 1994. Within two years, Joan had Alzheimer’s and died within seven years. Jim was her caregiver this entire time, while a full-time school bus driver. When Joan went to an Alzheimer’s center permanently, he fed her three times a day and put her to bed at night, seldom missing a day.

Jim had a life-long fondness for his VWHS Class of 1946, as well as the Class of 1945. He often mentioned how honored he was to have been elected class president all four school years. He never missed class reunions until he was unable to travel. He was selected to play in the first annual Ohio High School All-Star football game, on the north team, on Aug. 16, 1946. This game was for seniors from the 1945 season. It was played at Waite High School’s stadium, Toledo, Ohio.

Due to his O-negative blood type, he was a dedicated, life-long blood donor. His entire life, Jim volunteered at and worked-out at the YMCA. He served on the VW YMCA Board of Directors in the mid 1960s and taught classes whenever an instructor was needed. After retiring to Georgia, he joined the Alpharetta Family YMCA, going three times a week until he physically was unable to get there. He was the Santa Claus for this Y for a number of years.

When the Van Wert Peony Festival was started again in 1982, Jim was a volunteer for its fund-raising activities. In his later years in Van Wert, Jim built blue bird houses by the dozens for placement around Van Wert County. This was done with wood recycled from produce crates at groceries. Jim served as a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for many years.

Before fully retiring, Jim joined the local Big Brother-Big Sister program, becoming a Big Brother to 9-year old Nicholas Grote. Today, Nick resides in West Chester Township, Ohio, with his wife, Kristen, and son, Evan.

In the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, Jim was an avid sportsman with many local friends. Traveling to northern Michigan for fishing was a regular activity. Many new friends also were made from meeting sportsmen at Showalter Sporting Goods.

He was a life-long member of the Van Wert First United Methodist Church. He was baptized there on Easter Sunday 1929 by Rev. Ellsworth. (First Methodist Episcopal Church at the time.) During their years in Van Wert, Jim and Joan raised three children, all surviving as well as eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren:

1) Son, Stewart and Diane (Hinders) Showalter and their children, all in the Atlanta area: Son, Jeff (Lisa) Showalter; their children, Hannah, Sarah, Ben, Claire, and John Daniel; Daughter, Katie (Matt) Ryan; their children, Connor and Brady: Daughter Kristin (Jonathan) Lambert, their children, Mary Flynn, Beckett, and Quin.

2) Son, Gary and Barbara (Miller) Showalter, and their children, all of Van Wert: Daughter, Jill (Showalter) and Gayle DeWert and their child, Cole: Sons, Jason Showalter and Adam Showalter.

3) Daughter, Sue Showalter, her daughter, Tiffany Martinez, and son, Elijah Baker (all in Tennessee), and Elijah’s children, Kaylee Baker (Van Wert) and Hannah Baker (Lima, Ohio).

Also surviving is sister-in-law, Jeannie (Ralston) and Art Bauer, and her daughter, Susan (Andrus) and Keith Bowersox, all in Van Wert; nieces, Judith Anne Showalter and Jane Elizabeth Showalter (both of Cambridge, Maryland), Sheryl (Bender) and William Rees (Southington, Connecticut); their children, son Jeff (Kimberly Swensky) Rees (Southington, Connecticut) and their children, Nathan and Bella, and daughter, Julie Anne (Rees) and Brian Williams (Tampa, Florida) and children, Brianna Christina and Max; nephew, Ronald Bender of Brighton, Michigan; sons, Rex Bender and children and Chad (Deanna J. Griak) Bender in Lansing, Michigan, also Jim’s special friend, Fran Liakos, of 11 years in Alpharetta, Georgia. Surviving Jim on Joan’s side are Mrs. Ray (Betty) Ladd and Mr. Dwight (Barbara Ladd) Shufeldt, with many nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews.

Preceding Jim in death were siblings and their spouses, Victor “Herb”’ (VWHS 1932) and Gertrude (Diehl) Showalter, Sara Jane ‘Sally’ (Showalter) (VWHS 1936) and Robert Bender, and Thomas Showalter (VWHS 1940).

Funeral services will be held at noon Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home, Van Wert, the Rev. Gus Christo-Baker officiating. Jim’s ashes will be buried at Woodland Cemetery, Van Wert. An afternoon luncheon for all friends and family will follow at the First United Methodist Church in Van Wert.

Visitation will be held two hours prior to services Saturday (10 a.m. – noon) at the funeral home.

Preferred memorial is the First United Methodist Church or the Alzheimer’s Association.