James M. Easthom (Major, USAF) of Roanoke, VA, a beloved and dear father, grandfather, uncle and husband departed peacefully from this world on October 20, 2018. Jim was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on December 3, 1932, the son of Otis G. Easthom and Leatha May (Biggs) Easthom. After the passing of his mother, he and his brother Homer were raised by Roy and Ellen McClellan. After graduating from Otter Creek High School in Terre Haute in 1951, where he excelled academically and athletically, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as an airman, then quickly achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. While he was in the Air Force stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, he met and married Barbara Ann Baratta on September 6, 1956.
After his marriage, and while in active service, he matriculated at Indiana University and received a bachelor's degree in business administration. After working in the private sector, Jim returned to the Air Force and spent 24 years as a navigator attaining the rank of Major. His service took him and his family to many U.S. Air Force bases both in the United States and other countries, including Germany, Japan, and Turkey. His missions often required him to navigate the airplane and its crew close to the air space of the USSR, Viet Nam, and China to test the air defense capabilities of these countries with foreign language translators on his C-130.
Jim retired from active duty service with the Air Force in 1976. After retirement, he started a second career teaching Air Force Junior ROTC at William Fleming High School in Roanoke. "Maj", as he was affectionately called by students at William Fleming, was passionate about teaching and helping to shape the lives and futures of the young men and women who took his classes. His dedication to teaching showed in the love and respect he received from students and fellow teachers at the high school. Where his students were concerned, he was always willing to lend a helping hand before and after their graduation. Many of his students went on to serve long and distinguished careers in the Air Force and other branches of the military. Towards the latter part of his teaching career, Jim took on the additional role of Athletic Director at William Fleming. He also found time to earn a Master of Administration degree from Lynchburg College in 1981.
As much as he loved his military and teaching careers, Jim was first and foremost a dedicated and doting father and grandfather. He sacrificed greatly for his children and helped to instill in them a love for learning and education, and compassion and empathy for those less fortunate. Though an outstanding teacher and career military officer, his greatest achievement was that of a loving and caring father. If asked, he would say that his proudest accomplishment was raising a family and his greatest joy came from watching his children and grandchildren grow into adulthood.
Jim was an avid gardener, voracious reader, particularly books about history, enjoyed car trips of any length, and most of all loved to spend free time at large family gatherings of his children and grandchildren.
Jim is survived by Barbara, his beloved and caring wife of 62 years, his children, Andree L. Cates, Columbia, MD, Karl D. Easthom (Cindy Easthom) of Arnold, MD, Amelia E. Wilmer (Jeff Wilmer) of Lawrenceville, GA, Letha E. Lombardi (Frank Lombardi) of Columbia, MD, and James R. Easthom (Laurin Easthom) of Chapel Hill, NC, grandchildren, Sarah M. Cates, Natalee N. Easthom, Greta K. Easthom, Cara W. Bell (Kyle Bell), Kylie A. Wilmer, Lydia Wilmer, Paul A. Lombardi, Brielle A. Lombardi, Haley L. Easthom and Emily A. Easthom and nieces, Katherine Easthom and Gail Easthom Kuta.
Jim was predeceased by his brother, Homer Easthom and his parents, Otis G. Easthom and Leatha May (Biggs) Easthom.
A memorial service celebrating Jim's life will be held on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 1:00 p.m., at Lotz Funeral Home Chapel, 1001 Franklin Rd., S.W., Roanoke, VA, 24016. Visitation will be held prior to the service, from Noon to 1:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the charity of one's choice.