Life Story for
James "Jim" Peters
James Claiborne Peters, Sr (Poppie) died peacefully, just as he led his life on January 15 at Covenant Place in Sumter, where he had lived since 2006. He was born on May 1, 1920 in Winn Parish, Louisiana to Isaac Newton Peters and Eva Elizabeth (Dean) Peters. A service to celebrate his life will be held on Friday, January 19 at Elmore - Cannon - Stephens - Funeral Home, 515 Miller Rd, Sumter. The service, officiated by Dr. RL (Bob) Calvert of First Baptist Church Sumter, will be held at 2:00 pm and the family will welcome friends there precceding the service at 1:00 pm.
One of eight children and growing up during the Depresion in the rural areas and small towns of Louisiana, Poppie was grounded by a gentle spirit and a deep faith in God. He worked hard at everything he did, and often told his children that from a young age he always had a little money in his pocket because "If you are willing and a hard worker, there is always someone who needs a job done.". No job was too humble, and from a young age, he often used he earnings to help others who needed them more.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of almost 64 years, Ellie (Elsie) Merritt Peters, of Pensacola, Fla. Besides his parents, also preceeding him in death were seven of his siblings, William Wilson Peters, Alice Lucille Peters Simpson, Moise L. Peters, Marguerite Peters Richardson, Stuart Dean Peters and Mary Elizabeth Peters Lee
With his wife Ellie, Poppie is survived by their two children, Susan Peters Roehrich and her husband Steve, of Charleston, SC and James Claiborne Peters, Jr and his wife Sandra Roach Peters, of Simpsonville, SC.
His other survivors include the grandchildren he loved so much, Barry James Peters and his wife Heather (Deason) Peters of Simpsonville, Scott Michael Peters of Simpsonville, Peter John Roehrich and his husband Michael Cavey of Hyattsville, MD and Emily (Peters) Hill and her husband Russell Hill of Simpsonville. He also leaves behind three great grandchildren, Ben and Abey Peters, Ellie Hill, and three more soon to be born. Finally he is survived by his youngest and only remaining sister, Eva Lois Boone and her husband Curtis Boone, of Purvis, MS, and countless other cherished nieces, nephews and extended family members.
Inspired by his oldest brother Wilson, who worked his way through LSU and Dental School, Poppie was determined to learn as much as he could. He applied to LSU's Agricultural Aviator Program created to help train pilots for WW II. In that way, he began college at LSU at Monroe, while also training as a pilot. By age 20 he was an FAA licensed commercial multi-engine-rated air transport pilot. Inspired by a Hollywood produced movie about Naval Aviators, Poppie applied and was accepted into Naval Aviation Flight Training. At age 21, he was designated a Naval Aviator at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL, just two weeks after Pearl Harbor.
While training and later as an instructor pilot, Poppie was immersed into a very new world. Among many others, he taught actor Robert Taylor to fly, the very actor who played the role of a USN pilot in the film that so inspired him. He loved all sports and played on the Pensacola NAS Football Team, where many of his teammates were
from some of the biggest powerhouse football colleges and universities. He likes to tell stories about how small he was in comparison to many players on the team, but the coaches were so amazed that no matter how hard he was hit, he never stopped. When others were injured, a coach would often say "Send Peters in, he seems to think he's unbreakable."
It was that optimistic spirit that was one of his best and most admired character traits. At Pensacola NAS his roommate in the Bacherlor Officers' Quarters was another Aviator who had grown up in Pensacola. He invited Poppie to come along to an evening group at First Baptist Church for college age students, in the summer of 1942. He did, and was introduced to Elsie Merritt after the close of a prayer meeting, while standing right in front of the altar. He told his friend later as they returned to the base, that he had met the girl he was going to marry. Elsie had grown up in Pensacola and was returning to Tallahassee in the Fall for her senior year at FSU. She was President of the Baptist Student Union, and a very busy girl with lots to do, and no ideas about getting married. But Poppie persisted and one year later, on June 24, 1943 they were married on the same spot where they first met.
During the war, Poppie and Ellie moved to several duty locations, and he served as flight instructor, as Flag Aide to Commander Naval District New Orleans, and in southern Florida, in the Navy Grumman F6F Replacement Air Group. He survived two aircraft crashes, one flying solo, and one with a student at the controls. There was no loss of life in either incident, but rather his natural tenacity was only further strengthened. He was later sent to an airwing/squadron assignment heading to the Western Pacific on the aircraft carrier USS Bennington out of Alameda, CA. The war ended shortly afterwards, before the Bennington joined the Fleet in the Pacific. Weighing what path to pursue following the war, Poppie decided to leave the Navy, and turned down an offer of a job as pilot/captain with Cathay Pacific Air in Hong Kong, in favor of and with the aid of the GI Bill, returning to Florida to complete his college education at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Poppie received a BS in Accounting and Business Management, and was offered a job at a small corrugated box company in Valdosta, Georgia called National Container. He had become chief accounting officer when Owens - Illinois Glass Company bought National Container, as part of their expansion of a developing forest products division. He went on to have a long career with Owens - Illinois at their corporate headquarters in Toledo, Ohio and in several of their other locations. In 1972 he was assigned as General Manager of a large OI Corrugated Box plant in Chicago where he worked until 1980. At that time, a very good customer of the Chicago business was a family owned business led by Ed Fienning of Kankeke, IL. The Fiennings were interested in building their own corrugated box manufacturing business, and wanted to place it in South Carolina.
In 1980 Poppie took an early retirement from Owens - Illinois and accepted an offer to go to work for Ed Feinning and family, to oversee the building of the new Sumter Pacakaging Company's Corrugated Box Manufacturing Plant. His task was to be there to manage the construction of the site, the hiring of the employees and sales team, and the planning and execution of work force training. Poppie loved his role at Sumter Packaging, especially the opportunity to help create jobs in the community and the chance to contribute to people learning new skills and developing their livelihoods. He also loved becoming involved in the community, first at First Baptist Church, where he and Ellie became members in 1980 and were devoted in worship and service all the rest of their lives. He was always grateful to the Fiennnings for bringing him and Ellie to Sumter, which truly became their home. When he retired fully, and Chuck Fiennning took over the management completely of Sumter Psckaging, he invited Poppie to serve on the Board of Directors, serving there as long as he was able. Later, he was encouraged to remain on the board indefinitely by Chuck's son, Ben DeSala which he did up until his death. He always called his relationship to the Fiennings and Sumter Packaging one of the highlights of his life.
Poppie was also active in the Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the Sumter Kiwanis Club, where he served as President, and Samaritan House where he served on the board. He loved to golf and was a member for years of the "Godfathers" who golfed together every Saturday morning at Sunset Country Club. When not on the golf course with the Godfather's he loved to have his grandchiodren join him to play, or attend the Sumter P15 baseball games, or to go blue berry picking, or just to "pal around together" as he called it.
No matter what he was doing, Poppie seemed to always relish the moment. His glass was never half empty, but always half full... which was always much more than he expected or even thought he was due. He was a man full of honor and dignity, you could trust him with your life, and he always trusted his life to God. He lived without worry or regret, but always with hope and gratitude, and exemplified that right up until the day he died. He was one in a million, and will be long loved and forever remembered