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James Howard “Jim” Raines

Jim Raines

James Howard “Jim” Raines, 72, of Ridgetop, Tennessee, passed away peacefully at Hendersonville Medical Center on November 5, 2020.

Jim (“Jimmy” to his wife and “Jamie” to his mom) was born in Breaks, Virginia on May 23, 1948. He was the second of four children of Ernest Raines, a decorated veteran of World War II, and Shirley Estep Raines, a five-star homemaker with the county fair ribbons to prove it. Jim was delivered at home in a house still under construction. The house did not yet have electricity, so family friend Dr. Josh Sutherland borrowed a coal miner’s helmet from Jim’s grandfather and used the headlamp to aid in the delivery. He was the middle of three very close brothers who grew up sharing the same room. Their dad’s hard work, their mother’s phenomenal homemaking, and the love of both parents combined to provide an idyllic childhood. Jim grew up in a snug household filled with love, laughter, fun, music, and plenty of good food. Many memorable hours were spent playing games, fishing with his dad, playing with the dogs, visiting his grandparents, and roaming the Virginia hills with Gary and David. Much later, when he was 18, a surprise baby sister, Lisa, was born, to whom he was very devoted.

Both of Jim’s parents were teachers. And so, after graduating from Grundy Senior High School in 1966, he chose to enter the family business. He attended one year at Southern Missionary College near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then transferred to Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. He received his B.A. in Elementary Education from Berea in 1972, and an M.A. in Elementary Administration from Radford University in 1983. While there were brief periods of other employment, Jim always thought of himself as a teacher and the bulk of his working life was devoted to education. Over the course of his career he worked in the Buchanan County Public Schools in Virginia, with the Seventh-day Adventist parochial school system in Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee, and at Darton College in Albany, Georgia. He was an excellent teacher and administrator who always had a special place in his heart for the underdog. In the classroom his heart very sincerely went out to the little boy who couldn’t read, the girl with math struggles, or the shy kid alone on the playground. He believed with all his heart that a teacher could touch lives and make a difference. Many of those students remember him today as their favorite teacher ever.

While studying at Berea Jim met and fell in love with Arlene Mays. In a true case of opposites attracting, the Virginia country boy and the Florida city girl married in January of 1970 and were together for more than fifty years. The celebration of their golden wedding anniversary just days after his cancer diagnosis was a special joy. Daughter Christa was born in 1972, followed by son Aaron in 1976. As time passed the family grew with the addition of son-in-law Matt in 1994, grandson Ethan in 2004, granddaughter Casi in 2006, daughter-in-law Larisa in 2009, granddaughter Mikka in 2011, and grandson Mattias in 2012. Jim was always happiest when with his family. He took great joy in seeing the family circle grow larger.

Jim was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1963, at the age of fifteen. Although health complications related to his diabetes caused him to leave full time employment in 1998, he remained very active in his church and community. For many years he served the Ridgetop Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church elder, Sabbath school superintendent, religious liberty leader, and community services leader, and served as a volunteer reader with the Nashville Talking Library, a radio service for the blind. Anyone in need of help or encouragement could count on a visit, card, or phone call from Jim.

Jim will be fondly remembered by many people, and with good reason. He was the personification of kindness and humility. He loved all sorts of animals, but especially dogs, horses, and children, not necessarily in that order. He was an inveterate tinkerer who could repair almost any broken thing. This was especially useful once the grandchildren came along. He loved strawberry milkshakes, trees, University of Kentucky basketball, and music – especially playing and collecting guitars. We will probably be finding guitars tucked away in various nooks and crannies for months. He never met a yard sale, flea market, or antique store he didn’t like. He had the greenest of green thumbs and planted untold hundreds of trees and shrubs in his life. He could whip up a mean grilled cheese sandwich which, when paired with a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, was the perfect comfort food for a sick child or grandchild. His Sunday morning Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes were legendary. He enjoyed long walks in nature, especially if he could hold a grandchild’s hand while doing so. We will miss those walks terribly. Those who knew him best will never be able to eat cottage cheese and fruit again without thinking of Jim. He had a dry, quick sense of humor, which kept his family and health care providers entertained to the very end of his life. Mostly we will remember him for the quiet, sincere, Christian love that was so very evident in his life, and added so much richness to ours. The fruits of the spirit were well watered in his heart’s garden.

He is survived by his wife Arlene Raines, of Ridgetop, Tennessee; daughter Christa (Matt) Demaree of Madison, Tennessee; son Aaron (Larisa Hellgren) Raines of Springfield, Tennessee; grandchildren Ethan and Casi Demaree, and Mikka and Mattias Raines; his mother Shirley Raines of Breaks, Virginia; brother Gary (Marina) Raines of Glendale, California; brother David (Susan) Raines of Breaks, Virginia; sister Lisa (Andy) Miller of Villanow, Georgia; aunts Marcie Morrow of Daphne, Alabama, and Nora Estep of Knoxville, Tennessee; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, all of whom he dearly loved.

He was preceded in death by his father, Ernest Raines, of Breaks, Virginia; grandparents Joe and Dana Raines of Breaks, Virginia; and grandparents Ned and Lena Estep, of Delbarton, West Virginia.

Jim lived in many places over the course of his life – Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and Georgia – but his mountain roots ran very deep. Near the end of his life he drew special comfort from being able to spend so much time with Arlene in the home of his youth, surrounded by familiar scenery that was dear to him. It is fitting that his final earthly resting place will be in the family cemetery in the Breaks, less than a mile from the place of his birth. God willing a public memorial service will be held for him in the spring.

The mission of St. Jude Children’s Hospital was always close to Jim’s heart. If you wish to honor him a donation to St. Jude’s may be made in his memory. An equal honor would be for you to think of him while planting a tree or doing a kind deed for someone less fortunate. If you can do these things while drinking a strawberry milkshake, so much the better.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7, 8)