James Lee Willhite

James Lee Willhite passed away in Mesquite, Texas on April 6, 2024, at the age of 92.  He was born on July 24, 1931, in Leflore County, Mississippi. James was the second of nine children. He joined the U.S. Army at the age of seventeen and retired after a 22-year career in Communications where he served his last year in Vietnam.  He then spent 15 years as an electrician at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce).  He also worked for 5 years at Sherwood Medical in Commerce before retiring. He married Alene Ward Willhite in May 1958 who survives him after 65 years of marriage.  He is survived by his brother, George Willhite, of Independence, Mississippi.  He is also survived by daughter, Darlene Buckholt and husband, J.D., of Mesquite, Texas; son, David Willhite and wife, Kim, of Dike, Texas; daughter, Denise Schmitz of Fate, Texas.  He is also survived by 9 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. 

James and Alene lived in Brashear, Texas, from 1973 to 2015 before moving to Mesquite where they lived for 9 years.  They were members of Brashear Baptist Church for over 20 years and he volunteered his time and expertise in the electrical construction of the Family Life Center in Brashear.  They spent several years traveling by RV all over the U.S. – bringing grandchildren along as well.

James was a loving and caring husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  He was a good provider, supportive, and encouraging to his family.  He was dedicated, hardworking and was always “piddling” with something in his shop. Pawpaw, as he was lovingly known to his family, always had chewing gum for the kids – but only half a piece at a time.  He loved going to garage sales, fixing and selling tractors, and watching the Texas Rangers.  He also had an avid love for animals – Mitzi, Princess, Peewee, Duke, Heidi and Maggie to name only a few of their pets over the years – a trait he passed on to his children and grandchildren.

James is preceded in death by his parents, Willie and Betty Willhite of Memphis, Tennessee, and 6 brothers and sisters.  He is also preceded in death by son-in-law, Randy Schmitz, and grandson, Ryan Schmitz.

James/Pawpaw will be missed immensely by his family and friends.  A celebration of his life will be held at West Oaks Funeral Home on Thursday, April 11, 2024, with visitation with the family from 1-2 p.m. and the funeral service from 2-3 p.m. His grandsons will be serving as pallbearers.  He will be laid to rest following the service at Restlawn Memorial Park at 5784 Highway 154 in Sulphur Springs.

Arrangements are under the direction of West Oaks Funeral Home.


Author: Chad Young

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