James Edward Yockey:
Life Story of James Edward Yockey
James Edward Yockey, son of Margaret Helen Deneen Yockey and Edward Luther Yockey, was born on December 15, 1929 in Akron, Ohio. He was conceived in the prosperous boom times of the roaring 20’s and was born into the bust time of the Great Depression. The influence of this time when money was short and ingenuity took the place of cash, Jim learned how to live his life always seeking a better, more thrifty way of doing things.
His dad was raised on a farm in southeastern Ohio and the strength of the farm influenced most of his life. Edward, a good father, passed much of his practical wisdom on to his son. His Mother, Helen, determined that he would be special and made him the center of her life during his early years. She gave him the gene of longevity, living herself to the age of 101. She also taught him that there was no “women’s” work or “men’s” work; there was just Work which could be done by anyone equally well.
His mother’s dream for him was to match Shirley Temple. He took tap dancing lessons and piano lessons and when he was 5, a tailor made a dress suit with tails for him. Added to that was a pearl handled cane and a collapsible top hat. He was ready to perform for anybody anytime.
He married his high school sweetheart, Carol, and they had a daughter, Pam. A little later on in this marriage, they had two more children, Keith and Chris.
Work taught him to be a welder, a tire builder, a foundry manager, a restauranteur, a chemical salesman, an insurance salesman, a Therm-o-King dealer, a Dale Carnegie instructor, an industrial rubber distributor, a landlord, and a real estate investor. He had a brilliant mind and he learned the skills of a mechanic with metals, wood, plastic and cement. He could plumb and electrify and could build almost anything. He could balance books, cook a meal, sew a seam, work a computer or chair a committee. A person whose curiosity worked overtime, he was forever figuring out new things to do and try.
A job in chemical sales moved him and his family from Ohio to South Carolina in 1959. He traveled a territory of 4 and a half states, usually being gone from home from Monday to Friday. The name of the company was Darling and Company and Dad enjoyed being a ‘Darling man.’
Not long after having moved to South Carolina, he was active in the Greenville Jaycees. A leader in the group called him one day and asked if he was free the next day. He needed someone picked up at the Airport and delivered to the Country Club. Jim said sure, he could do that. Jim’s car at the time was a used red Volkswagen Beetle that he loved to drive. He went to the downtown airport (the only airport in Greenville at the time) and picked up his passenger, Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings. Being new to the state, Dad did not recognize the name. His passenger was just a nice tall fellow to him. Senator Hollings looked at the car and said, “I’ve never ridden in one of these before,” and he folded his tall frame into Jim’s little car. When they arrived at the Country Club, the drive was lined with big Cadillac’s. Cars belonging to people who likely would have given anything to do Jim’s errand. Jim shook Fritz’s hand and went on his way, never knowing the importance of the man he had just met. Thinking back, Jim thought it may have been a treat for the Senator to have a little time when he was unrecognized and just an ordinary man.
Raised a Methodist, Jim broke with that faith in his early 20’s and looked and searched for years to find a spiritual home. He found the Unitarians in a magazine in the late 50’s, but only read about them until after he separated from his wife Carol who had also been raised Methodist and had difficulty understanding why that faith was not enough for Jim.
In 1976, after searching for so long, he found the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and his church home. He became president within a year and chaired the search committee that found their first minister. Over the years with the Fellowship, he served as president 3 times, served on many committees, negotiated the purchase of the property on Hillcrest and on State Park Road. He had the stone installed in the Memorial Garden as well as many of the plaques. He chaired the committee that built the Columbarium and, with his granddaughter Keri, designed and built the Labyrinth as his gift to the Fellowship.
He loved to travel and did so in Europe, South America, China, South Africa, and many other places in and out of the US. He canoed serious white water, scuba dived in the Caribbean and skied in the powder! He was always ready to go and do and see.
In 1986, after Carol had died, he met and married Veronica Piazza, a college professor and a devout Catholic. With her, he had a second daughter, AnnaConchetta, and a good and loving marriage for over 35 years. He also had the dubious distinction of being the youngest to father a child in his high school class of 1947 – as well as the oldest!
Jim was always very active. He carried in his shirt pocket an ongoing list of ‘things to be done.’ What had once been a rather short and manageable list over the years became an ongoing list of “Stuff, stuff and more stuff to do.” In October, there were trees and limbs that needed tending on the land where he lived with Veronica. Ninety-one years old – soon to be 92 – he had made an appointment with a young man to tend to this at 8 am on a Saturday morning. While they were working, one limb snapped rather unexpectedly, knocking Jim off balance. He hit the ground pretty hard and never got up again.
And there he was, taking care of responsibilities, doing good work in the beautiful October morning, being thankful for the rich life that had been given to him which allowed him to do so very many things with love, drive and determination.
19 November 2021
James Edward Yockey: