Rites held for James Quinter Underwood Jr.

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

James Quinter Underwood, Jr. is now in the arms of Jesus. He “lay aside his earthly dwelling” on December 31, 2015.

The occupation of his father, J. Q. Underwood Sr., building railroad switch signals, had taken him and Grace Holt Underwood, to Charleston, South Carolina, where on February 8, 1916, James Q. (“Jim”) Underwood, Jr. was born. He later finished at Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg High School with honors in 1934 and wanted in the worst sort of way to become a chemist. He spent two years laboring for a local farmer at $1 an hour and was so hard-working that his employer drove him to Pennsylvania State University to help him get started in a course of study. He finished a degree in chemical engineering and went to work for Celanese Fibers Company in Cumberland, Maryland.

“This is God’s country,” he used to say of Giles County, after he was transferred to the company’s plant beside the New River. (He was an employee there for over 40 years.) World War II was raging but he received a work deferment, so did not end up as a soldier. Betty Mae Womack, a dedicated Methodist, was teaching typing and shorthand to high school students at the old King Johnston School. She and Jim met at a supper club and were married months later on July 31, 1947. After 42 years of marriage, Betty died in 1989. Jim met the devout Baptist widow Blanche Murray on a bus tour to Niagara Falls five years later. They were married in 1994 until her death in 2012.

Jim loved solving problems and fixing things. He raised a big garden and involved himself in Lions Club projects like Gentry’s Landing and Rich Creek Park. His woodworking shop was always buzzing, building beautiful pieces of furniture for Betty and their children. After she died he said staying busy helped him “crowd out the sorrow.” When he was in college he bought dance lessons for fifty cents. He used to turn on the hi-fi, grab Betty and dance around the room with her. He loved fishing and camping and often made pancakes of the family on busy Sunday mornings. He played a mean harmonica and could chord out two whole songs on the piano. He was fond of telling jokes, and taught Sunday School class for many years at the Presbyterian Church.

He kept in close touch with his brothers Dean and Ernie, and their wives (both named Jean). His brother Kenton, closest in age to him, and his wife Beryl, are both deceased. (Kenton was a veteran of World War II as was Dean.) Marion, his sister, often called him, especially after her husband Cyril died.

Jim was a faithful husband, father, and Christian. He is survived by his tender hearted son-in-law Rick; his children, Jon, Mary, and Jimmy who will miss him sorely, as will his seven grandchildren Erin and Rachel Underwood; Maria, Kirk, and Elizabeth Dunn; and Matthew and Ashley Underwood. Jim swept Blanche’s children into his heart as well: Marshall and Janice Murray, Fred and Arethia Murray, and Sally and Glenn Clarke along with their children and grandchildren. Nieces and nephews of Jim and Betty will miss him too: Frances Brown Brady, Sonny Brown, Anita Bell Montgomery, A. B. Bell, Jeannie Bell Tisdale and Michael, Chip and Katy Womack, Pat and Kathy Womack, Frances Womack Reed and Mike, Holly Womack Bent, Kris Underwood Heiner and Kevin, Debbie Underwood, Beth Underwood Kline and Dave, and Tom Underwood.

Jim’s favorite Bible verse was Phillipians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise let your mind dwell on these things.”

Memorial services will be held Saturday, Jan. 9 at 2pm in the First Presbyterian Church, Narrows, Va. If you would like to honor Jim, please send memorial gifts to First Presbyterian Church, 702 Memorial Boulevard, Narrows, VA 24124. Online condolences may be sent by visiting: www.clarkefh.com