Jim Underwood, rancher, teacher, friend, devoted husband, father and grandfather, died on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, near Lago Vista, Texas. He and his wife Cookie had temporarily moved to Lago Vista to be near their son while he battled ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
James Weldon Underwood was born at his family’s home in Grit, Mason County, Texas to John James Underwood and Irlene Elizabeth McWilliams Underwood on September 20th, 1938. Jim could talk your arm off about any historical aspect of Mason County. His favorite topics were everyone’s family lineage as well as the secret stories surrounding the Hoo Doo War. He was a great storyteller and very proud of his Mason County heritage. He was especially excited about the fact that his grandchildren were 7th generation residents.
Jim was educated in the Mason public schools, graduating with the class of 1957. He had special memories of playing football for the Punchers and appearing as a doctor in the One Act Play during his senior year.
Following high school, Jim earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Southwest Texas State College and completed some postgraduate work there as well. He never acknowledged the new name of the University and quit providing donations after the name change. After graduation, he worked as a soil conservationist in Van Horn, Texas, but left the isolation of far west Texas to begin a teaching career in Somerset. He then taught in San Angelo for nine years before moving to Brady, where he and Cookie both continued teaching until they retired. Jim is remembered for his love of the science fair, in which he became involved at the local and regional levels.
While he loved teaching and the interactions with students, his dream was always to work on the family ranches in Mason and Kimble counties. He realized that dream for over twenty years after his retirement until he became ill. There was not a day spent on the land that he did not cherish. He loved the land more for the tradition than the ranching. One of Jim’s heroes was his Grandpa “Red John” Underwood, who instilled in him that it was always good to be both a Methodist and a Democrat. Jim loved the church and was a member and participant since childhood. He was also a lifelong Democrat, following politics closely. He took his religion and politics very seriously.
On December 22nd, 1967, he married the love of his life, Cookie Matthews, and they celebrated their 47th anniversary this past year. Jim was preceded in death by his parents Johnny and Irlene Underwood and a half brother Elward Bulger. He is survived by his wife Cookie, a son Matt, Matt’s wife Fara Miller Underwood, and his grandchildren Maci and Mitchell, who lovingly called him “Papa Jim”. He is also survived by a sister Patsy Underwood Zesch, her husband Gene and nephews Casey of Fredericksburg and Scott of Mason; a brother, Tom Underwood, and his wife Karen of Kerrville and their son Todd of Houston; and a sister-in-law, Carrie Jo Matthews Blackshear of Marble Falls and her daughters Tammy Murley of Marble Falls and Betsy Barringer of Smithville. Two other nieces, Judy Hammond and Terri Ayjian, also survive him.
Visitation will be at the First United Methodist Church in Brady from 10:00 – 12:00 A.M. on Saturday, February 22nd. A memorial service will follow at 2:00 P.M. at the church, conducted by Reverend Phil Steinbach with the assistance of longtime family friend Jon Lowry, retired Methodist Minister of San Antonio, and Jim’s nephew, Pastor Casey Zesch. Burial will follow at 4:00 P.M. at the Grit Cemetery on Highway 29 six miles west of Mason.
A reception and further visitation will follow at the Gamel Guest House in Mason on Highway 87 southeast of the square. Remember, as Maci informed us, “Papa Jim is in his happy place.”
In lieu of flowers please send memorials to the ALS Association of Texas, 8705 Shoal Creek Blvd., Austin, Tx. 78757.
Condolences may be sent to the family on-line at masonfuneralhome.net. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Mason Home.