The Eulogy of Jim Joiner

The Eulogy of Jim Joiner

June 13, 1942 – June 24, 2018

We dedicate this service to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Jim Joiner.

Last evening over 400 of Jim and Ruth’s friends, and friends of this family passed through the doors of this church to extend love to them for Jim’s 23 years of service as their State Farm Agent, for the twelve years of service he gave the city of Jefferson as our mayor, and before that as a city councilman, for decades of service work through Rotary International, Jefferson Lions Club and the Commerce Kiwanis Club, for his love and devotion as a friend, for his example as a husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law and for his life of Christian service in the church and in the community, which permeated all that he did and stood for.

I have heard it said that it’s difficult to be accepted in Jefferson if you are not from Jefferson. Some say if you don’t have roots here you will never be from here.

But Jim and Ruth are not from here. They are transplants from Alabama.

The truth is that most of us are from somewhere else.

Not only that, Jim came to Georgia with an Auburn degree.  He bled orange and blue, so you know who he pulled for when Auburn played Georgia and you still elected him mayor.

But that just shows you that those things are secondary to what really matters and that is our relationships with each other.

What really matters in an election is a person’s character, his/her vision, and how well he/she can lead and work for the best of the entire electorate.

The reason you elected Jim three times as your mayor is because you trusted him and then he earned your trust.

He earned your trust in both white and black communities and he had many friends in both, which was evident last night during the time of visitation.

That spoke to his character and how he lived out his faith and did his work.

Thank you for your expressions of love to this family.  Thank you for coming today.

Steven Hix, a good friend of the family, who happens to be an Auburn graduate, is going to sing about the Amazing grace of God which this family has felt many times throughout Jim’s life.

Song: Amazing Grace 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father:

During the deep loss felt by Ruth, Jay, Kelli, their spouses, and grandchildren, by Jim’s brother and sister, and all his friends, we pray that there will be a great sense of peace gained by looking at the big picture of Jim’s life.

It is quite remarkable that we had him for 76 years.

It doesn’t make the grief of the family’s loss any less, but our thankfulness meter is certainly running at a high-level today Lord.

Because we had him longer than many expected, he was able to give this community, and his family a lot.

We are better for Jim’s service.

Thank you, Lord of his life, and for the gift of grace of eternal life, which he now enjoys through your son Jesus.

Amen.

Jim and Ruth met at church when they were teenagers in Sylacauga, Alabama.

Ruth was a bit smitten with Jim.  It worked that way because Jim was a senior in high school. Ruth was just an eighth grader.

Jim was tall.  He had big, brown eyes, a genetic trait that’s been passed down through the family.

At school, the underclassmen couldn’t mingle with the high school students. The only time that the two groups crossed paths during the day was during lunch.

One group was coming, and the other group was leaving.  So, Ruth would run to the balcony, grab a chair, and wait till Jim came into the auditorium so she could get a glimpse of him.

It may have started out with Ruth being smitten with Jim, but once she became a little older and they could date, it would be hard to say which one adored the other more, and that has continued for about 54 years.

When I went to the house Sunday afternoon after I received the news that Jim had died, Ruth said to me, “He made breakfast for me every morning.”

Jim would also prepare coffee for her and take it upstairs.

That’s the kind of love and affection Jim had for Ruth.

As a side note I’ll say that Jim was a good cook.  When their Sunday School class gathered on the fourth Thursday of each month, I usually found some of Jim’s homemade apple pie that he made in an old black iron skillet.

After Jim graduated from high school, he left Sylacauga for Auburn, University.  His parents dropped him off with a suitcase. Inside of it he a pair of pants and two shirts.

Jim worked his way through college.  He raised and sold peas for money to help pay for his tuition.

In those days, textiles were an important industry, so Jim majored in textile management.

Jim graduated in December, and if I did my math correctly, that means he finished college in three and a half years.  That’s what love will do for you, because in February of that next year, Jim and Ruth were married, during her senior year of high school.

Jay said that Jim had to sign Ruth’s report card.

They got married on a Friday night and celebrated with a coke and some crackers, which was all they could afford.

She was back at school on Monday morning and Jim reported to work at his first job in Avondale.

Ruth says that the school counselor took her aside and had a conversation with her and told her not to talk to the other girls about her married life. But Ruth says the counselor would have been surprised what those girls already knew.

Of course, Ruth graduated and joined Jim in Avondale and there they began their family. Jay and Kelli were both born while they were living there.  Jim worked in a very stressful and struggling textile industry and he wasn’t happy there.

About eight years later, he took a job in Thomaston, Georgia.  By this time, the textile industry had started to suffer, showing signs of stress from oversees competition.  While in Thomason, Jim was laid off from his job.

It is during these years that Jim suffered his first heart attack.  No doubt, the stress from his work was a contributing factor.

Jim was taken to Emory University Hospital and was told that he needed to have heart bypass surgery.  Ruth was there alone with Jim.  They were told that if Jim did not have the surgery, he would not live.

However, after more tests, the cardiologist would not perform the surgery because Jim’s veins were too small.  He knew he did not have the skills to perform the surgery, nor did he know anyone that did.

Ruth and Jim left the hospital and Jim resumed his work.  They had two small children, but they were living with the anxiety that Jim’s heart could stop at any moment.

Imagine living like that, knowing if you had surgery you would die, but being told if you didn’t have surgery, you would die.

Meanwhile, Jim found another job and they moved from Thomaston to Commerce.  Jim went to work at the Harmony Grove Mill in 1975.

About two years later, they received a call from Jim’s cardiologist at Emory.  He said he had been practicing tying small veins in mice and he was now confident enough to perform the surgery on Jim.

Jim would be his first case.  Essentially, this was experimental surgery.

Ruth objected.  Even though she had been told he would die without the surgery, she was now more afraid that he would die in surgery.

What happened next has become part of the family lore. Now the family looks back on how Jim responded to Ruth and laughs about it.

Not known for swearing, that day Jim used a swear word and told Ruth it was his body.

There was no more discussion. The decision was made.  Jim was having the surgery.

This was a life and death decision.  Everyone says, without a doubt, that if Jim had not had that surgery in 1977, he would not have lived past age 40.

Jesus commanded us to go the extra mile. There are many ways to look at that commandment.

But think about this doctor practicing tying veins together in mice for a couple of years just so he could do be ready to do an operation on one man and maybe more later.  Yet he went the extra mile for Jim.

When you think about your job and about serving people, think about how important it is to go the extra mile, to go the extra step, to do the extra time, to make sure that people get what they need.

It’s not always so dramatic, but you never know how much of a difference your efforts are going to make.

We’ve been blessed to have Jim for 40 more years because a doctor, who likely is not with us anymore, spent time perfecting a technique no one else had done before.

It is not surprising that not long after this, Jim began looking for another line of work.  He was told that the work he was in was too stressful and not good for someone with heart issues.

In looking for a different profession, Jim found a job where he could help other people.

After moving to Commerce in 1975, he met Gary and Peggy Haygood. Gary was an agency manager for State Farm.

Eventually, Jim approached Gary about becoming a State Farm agent.

In 1979, Gary appointed Jim as a State Farm Agent.   Jim was originally assigned to go to Winder, but the office opened in Jefferson when Henry Mashburn went into management.

On January 1, 1979, Jim began his work as the State Farm Agent in Jefferson.

One of the things Jim had to learn as a State Farm agent was how to run an office.

Fortunately, he had an excellent secretary.  I know that Jim found this woman very attractive and I know that he was very fond of her the first day they worked together.

One day, not long after he opened the office, his secretary gave him a phone message from an important client and asked that he give her a call before he left, but he left without giving her a call.

When Jim returned, the secretary took the message into his office and she politely reminded him that he was supposed to have called this person before he left but he did not.

Jim got up and went to the door and said to the secretary,

“Come out here.”

“Do you see whose name is on our sign?

She said, “Yes, it’s yours.”

With that Jim thought he had taught her a lesson.

But instead, Ruth Joiner went back to her desk, got her purse and walked out the door and Mr. Joiner had to look for him a new secretary.

The next day Jim phoned Ruth and told her he’d found her a job at Jackson EMC.  She said, “I didn’t know I was looking for one.”

Jim was the State Farm agent here until 2003.  He enjoyed a very successful 23-year career.

In a small town, it’s still possible, or at least it used to be, to get to know your insurance agent like you knew your family physician, your veterinarian, your banker, your hair stylist, your preacher, your car dealer, or your lawyer.

If you had an accident in your car or truck or if a tree fell on your house, you just called your agent.  It’s nice to know that person on a first name basis.

When there is trust between you and such a person, it means something.  When you are sitting across from someone you believe has your best interest at heart and not what’s best for his or her wallet, it means something.

Jim was that kind of agent.  Jim cared about his customers.  Jim took care of you.

That’s why he was successful.  That’s why his reputation grew.

In 1987, Jay had returned home to attend Kelli’s high school graduation.

However, that day, Jim had to be rushed to the hospital and it was decided that he needed to have by-pass surgery, his second open-heart surgery.

Jay took Kelli to the graduation ceremony only after the doctors came back from surgery and told the family that everything went great.

But after they left, Jim arrested on the table and the doctors had to take emergency measures to save his life.

This was almost ten years to the day after his first by-pass surgery.

By the time graduation was over, Jay had gotten the news that things were not good, and they left for the hospital again.

Jim was 45-years old.  He had survived two heart surgeries and a near death experience.

Jim has been described by his family and others as being stoic, a person of few words.  But when he spoke, Jim had something to say.  He had something worth listening to.

I believe Jim was a very good listener.  I think he listened to you, the citizens of Jefferson.  He wanted to know what you had to say.

I know Jim listened to God.

When you have a brush with death, you would be foolish not to listen to God.

Proverbs 3:6-10 says,

“Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give Him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.”

Perhaps Jim had always been this way.  But at age 45, after cheating death, twice really, I think Jim pondered things more than the average person.

He was more thankful for life and believed God wanted him to give what he could to make the world around him better. And he did.

Jim’s life was a life of service, perhaps in part because he knew how precious each day was and he wanted to make it count.

In case you didn’t know, these are not the only times Jim cheated death.

One Christmas Eve, Jim was tiling the floor in the bathroom of their house.  Jim was good at those kinds of jobs.

Ruth had been out to the car to clean some things out and found Jim’s revolver.  She came back into the house and had it in one hand and a glass duck figurine in the other hand, holding it by the neck.

Ruth had her finger inside the trigger guard of the revolver and was twirling it around on her finger and she said, “What do you want me to do with this?”

Before Jim could say, “Ruth, it’s loaded,” the gun discharged, and the bullet ricocheted around in the bathroom and came back and broke the glass duck figurine Ruth was holding in her other hand.

I have it on good authority that was the other day in Jim’s life he used a swear word, or two.

After that, Ruth was encouraged to take shooting lessons, which she did.

So that night when they came here to the traditional Christmas Eve service, there was more than one miracle to praise God for.

The next near-death experience for Jim also involves Ruth, but I must say, after hearing this story, I must lay much of the blame for this at Jim’s feet.

First, Jay says that his mother doesn’t know how to open a door, which is Jim’s fault.  “When she gets to one she stops,” Jay says.  That’s because Jim always opened door for her.

The family has always loved boating.  All the way back to the days in Thomaston, the family went boating.  They would go to church, then to Kentucky Fried Chicken, and then to the lake.

Well, Jim taught Jay and Kelli how to help him load and off load the boat, but Ruth never got included in that schooling.

So, the day finally came when Jay and Kelli were grown and had left the house.  Jim and Ruth went to the lake to get the boat out of the water at the end of the summer for the first time as a couple.

If it had not occurred to Jim before, it occurred to him that day that Ruth would have to help him load that boat.

There is that final step when the boat is on the trailer and you have pulled it in with the winch as far as you can get it and you need to a little help from the motor of the boat to push it all the up onto the trailer.

Jim tells Ruth to give it some gas, but when Ruth tells this, you can understand that Jim was not real clear on his instructions, because there is a big difference between saying, “Ruth, give it a little gas,” and “Give it some gas!”  Ruth says that Jim’s words were “Give it some gas!”

When Ruth “Gave it some gas!” the boat went sideways on the trailer. Ruth jumped off onto a pile of Rocks and the boat almost pinned Jim to the front of the trailer.

The grandchildren really laugh a lot just thinking about this story.

Two years before Jim retired as a State Farm Agent, he told his good friend Ronnie Hopkins that he was going to run for mayor.  It’s nice to have good friends to share and bounce your plans off.

Ronnie and Judy have traveled all over the world with Ruth and Jim, so to have someone to share his plans and vision with was important to Jim. Ronnie asked him if he’d lost his mind!

Jim ran, and he won his first election in 2001, the first of three consecutive terms that Jim would serve as the mayor of our city.

Jim was very passionate about his service to the city.  His family said they didn’t have much pull with him and knew not to say anything negative about the city, but he wanted to know what the citizens had to say.

Brantley said, “He was in politics, but he was not a politician.  He was one of the rare people in politics who was in it for the right reasons.  He made every decision based on what was best for the city of Jefferson and not what was best for his political future.  He did not base his decision on what the popular choice would be, and he detested politicians who did.”

His son Jay said that “he truly was in it to serve.”

Ruth said, “He loved this community.”

Ronnie Hopkins said that Jim “could always be counted on when he was needed. We worked together on many city projects, he as the Mayor and me as City Attorney. He was also a very strong supporter of Jefferson City Schools. We very seldom missed a Dragon Football game at home or away unless we were in another part of the world.”

During the years Jim served, he endured prostate cancer and two knee replacement surgeries.

During the years that he served, he saw our city move through unprecedented growth, and he helped us during one the greatest downturns of the economy in our country’s history.

I know that Jim was very interested in the quality of life for our citizens and he was interested in bringing jobs, good jobs to our city.

By his presentations at Rotary Club, it was obvious that he was vision oriented and kept clear goals in focus and was not swayed by pet projects that were not good for the entire community.

I believe one of the reasons he was passionate about creating jobs was because he remembered the day that he was without a job himself.

You would be hard pressed to find four grandchildren that were more involved in sports than Cannon, Price, Tradd, and Camille.

Pop and Mimi were there to see it all.

Camille knew how much he loved her when he told her even if she accepted a scholarship to the University of Alabama, he’d still go watch her swim.

But she found an even deeper place in his heart when she accepted a scholarship to his alma mater.

The boys were remembering very well the “old shack,” as they called it, that used to be behind Cream and Shuga where they dressed out for football and the dirt and rock field in front of the elementary school where they practiced.

Part of the way we see community needs is through the eyes of our children and grandchildren.

Partly because Jim had grandchildren and attended so many of their events and partly because he rubbed shoulders with you and listened to you tell him what dreams you had for your children and grandchildren, Jim was all in when it came to building a Recreation Department Complex for the City of Jefferson.

Within the first four years of that department being built and the hiring of Ben Dillard, Jefferson went from having three sports to having eighteen.  The quality of life for families in our community has greatly improved because of this addition to our city.

Jim would be the first to tell you how much effort went into that putting such a facility together. He would be the first to talk about such a project being a city-wide effort, which it was.

I know he wanted no attention brought to him when it was decided to name the Recreation Department for him, but it is well named.

Kelli says when she thinks of her father she thinks of integrity and honor.

Brantley says he would not tell a lie.  He was a man of strong character.  Chrissy says that he was a man of great patience.

Jim and Ruth met in church.   We meet in church today to celebrate his life. Jim and Ruth have always found joy by serving God through the church.

Their love for their Sunday School class is well-known and Jim could always be counted on for some good humor there.

Jim’s affirmation of my ministry meant a lot to me. I respected his life. I appreciated how he took care of Ruth and how he loved his friends.

You are his friends.  When he left office for the last time, a sadness swept over him. He was pouring himself into you, the people of Jefferson.  When that was over, he had to find his way again.  But he did.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and a place for everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

The reason we can laugh at the same time we are mourning is because we have hope and because we worship a God of grace.

It is the God of grace who has given Jim life with God eternal and it is that God of grace that will sustain this family.

Will you now, allow the God of grace, the one we call the Good Shepherd to lead you and guide you, and as you go to serve Him and to serve others until your days are no more?

Obituary 

Evans Funeral Home announces the death of Mr. James V. “Jim” Joiner, Sr., age 76 of Jefferson, Georgia who entered into rest Sunday, June 24, 2018.  Mr. Joiner was born in Sylacauga, Alabama, a son of the late Luther Kelly Joiner and the late Ruth Richards Joiner, was a member of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson, the Jefferson Rotary Club, former member of the Jefferson Lions Club and the Commerce Kiwanis Club.  Jim was a graduate of Auburn University having received a degree in textile management and enjoyed a successful career of owning the State Farm Insurance Agency in Jefferson for twenty-three years.  Jim served his community as a Jefferson City Councilman and also as the Mayor of Jefferson for twelve years, 2001-2013.

Survivors include his wife, Ruth Stewart Joiner of Jefferson.  Son, Jay Joiner and his wife Christina of Jefferson, daughter, Kelli Porter and her husband Brantley of Jefferson.  Four grandchildren, Cannon Joiner, Price Joiner, Tradd Porter and Camille Porter all of Jefferson.  Sister, Shirley Van Elzen of Sylacauga, Alabama and a brother, Don Joiner of Anniston, Alabama.

Memorial services will be held 11:00 A.M. Wednesday, June 27, 2018 from the First Baptist Church of Jefferson with Dr. Michael Helms officiating.  The family will receive friends 6:00 – 8:00 P.M. Tuesday, June 26, 2018 in the sanctuary of The First Baptist Church of Jefferson.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Jefferson First Baptist Church of Jefferson, P.O. Box 395, Jefferson, Georgia  30549.

Evans Funeral Home, Inc., 1350 Winder Highway, Jefferson, Georgia.  706-367-5467.

Online condolences at www.evansfuneralhomeinc.com