James E. “Jim” Peck, 71, of Eckford Township, Homer, died at his home while working in his fields on Monday, November 18, 2019.
Jim was born on February 14, 1948 at the Naval Hospital in Oahu, Hawaii to Lavern and Freda M. (Dowding) Peck, while they were stationed there with the U.S. Navy. Jim grew up living the life of a Navy family as they moved from there to Bayonne, NJ, San Diego where his brother Larry was born, then Clearfield, Utah, to Guam, to Great Lakes Naval Station in north Chicago, then returning to Marshall in 1959. Jim entered the Marshall school system that fall and graduated from Marshall High School in 1966. He then attended Oakland University in Rochester and studied engineering graduating from there in 1970.
When Jim returned to Marshall, the family attended West Eckford Missionary Church. There he was in the church orchestra where he played coronet and caught the eye of Andrea L. Winters. They became high school sweethearts. The couple married on June 29, 1968 at West Eckford Missionary Church.
With the Vietnam War still ongoing, Jim chose to enlist to serve in the U.S. Navy and was inducted on September 24, 1971. When Andrea was pregnant in Marshall with their first child, Jim waited as long as he could for the long drive to report to a training school in San Diego, which he did at the last minute, missing their first daughter’s birth by a few days! His wife and daughter Jackie joined him where he was stationed in Guam for three years. While there, their second daughter Jennie was born.
Jim was assigned to the USS Impervious, part of a flotilla of minesweepers there. They traveled to stage in Manila from where they would venture to the coastal waters of Vietnam to sweep mines and rescue downed airman who went down offshore. There, one of his jobs was Superintendent of Dry Dock for all the minesweepers in his flotilla. During his service, Andrea and their daughters would live where Jim was stationed.
Jim’s love of scuba diving led to Naval Diving School in Silver Springs, MD. He was trained as a Certified Saturation Diver, Mixed Air/Gas Diver, Underwater Welder and also in underwater salvage work. At his school he trained with Israelis, Canadians, and some military divers from other countries. They trained in the dark and cold (and very polluted) Potomac River.
In 1975, he was assigned to the Naval Station in Norfolk, VA serving with the dive group assigned to the USS Ortolan, which was a submarine rescue ship. That year, their third daughter Julie was born. Jim was assigned to Little Creek Group in Virginia Beach where he participated in secret testing of new dive and associated equipment. In 1981, he was attached to the Flyaway Salvage and Diving Team in San Diego, where he became the group’s Commander. From 1983-86, he was assigned to the Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii where he commanded a naval group that would travel to anywhere sent by the Navy to do rescue and salvage work. His divers were responsible for frequent surveys of the USS Arizona, monitoring the oil leakage that has gone on since it was sunk in the Japanese raid of December 7, 1941.
In June of 1986, he was transferred to the Navy Depot in Mechanicsburg, PA. He would travel to factories across the country where ammunition was manufactured for the U.S. Navy. He inspected and confirmed it was being produced to the Navy’s exact specifications. In 1990, he was assigned as the Naval Liaison to the Army at the Rock Island Arsenal in Moline, Illinois.
Naval Commander James E. Peck retired with an Honorable Discharge after 22 years of service on July 31, 1993. He and Andrea returned to Marshall to be close to family.
After returning to Marshall, Jim enrolled in Michigan State University in the fall of 1993 to pursue his Masters Degree in Building Construction Management. Jim enjoyed working at Darlings Hardware, where he became the “go to guy” for all things plumbing, electrical and Stihl equipment-wise! Jim worked with the Darlings for 26 years where he enjoyed mentoring his fellow employees.
Jim and his brother Larry have farmed together since his retirement from the Navy. They talked frequently regarding their many projects. Not only were they good brothers, they were great partners in all they did together.
Jim dedicated his life to Christ at an early age. He considered his service to God always first in his life, just as his parents did. His choice to follow Christ influenced his daughters and others to do the same. Jim felt that learning to act not for the moment, but for the long term, was an important character trait to be passed on. Together, he and Andrea have been dedicated and active church members. While in the Navy they were members of Southern Baptist Churches wherever they were stationed. Jim enjoyed teaching Sunday School at nearly all those churches, as he strove to continually set an example as a Christian man.
Upon returning to Marshall they attended their beloved West Eckford Missionary Church. Jim became the “do whatever needs to be done” guy and did it promptly! He has taught Sunday school at West Eckford for many years, taking over the class from his father LaVern. He taught his last class this past Sunday.
When Rev. David Nicholls became West Eckford’s pastor, he and Jim soon became fast friends. They both enjoyed riding motorcycles together. Every year they would plan a trip to a state they hadn’t been to, covering most of the United States! This next summer’s trip was in the works for Nova Scotia.
Jim was very skilled in woodworking, mechanics, electrical work, plumbing and fixing whatever was broken. When he and Andrea were newly married, he built their first bookcase, and their first daughter’s swinging cradle, their doll houses, and tree houses, among other things. Jim built the first computer for his family. The family’s console tv was built as a project by him. He maintained and fixed the family cars, as well as anything that needed fixing. He mentored his daughters in these skills as they grew up. He collected “hit and miss” engines over the years, new tools and gadgets, and collected antique Bibles. He loved tractors. He enjoyed the outdoors and playing various sports including volleyball and softball. Jim rarely missed any of his daughters’ special events as they grew up. Although the grandchildren lived out of state, he enjoyed watching them grow and attending their events when he could.
Jim became a mentor and father figure for his nephew Jesse Rosencrants after he came to live with Jim and Andrea in 2013. They were good buddies, sharing a love of mechanics, music, and the outdoors!
Jim and Andrea did crossword puzzles every morning. Jim was a voracious reader and never stopped learning. Jim and Andrea enjoyed watching “Jeopardy” and “Wheel Of Fortune” nightly, with Jim answering questions quickly! They had many trips together and enjoyed traveling. Time together was precious to them as they grew older. Jim will be dearly missed.
He is survived by his wife Andrea; their daughters Jacqualine Peck of Womelsdorf, PA, Jennifer Thompson of Mechanicsburg, PA, and Julie (Doug) Koos of Davenport, Iowa; their grandchildren Alexa Mahan, Keegan Mahan, Peyton Masi, James Thompson, Julianna Thompson, Kaylee Bargmann and Quentin Bargmann; his brother and sister-in-law Lawrence and Lori Peck of Homer; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Friends may call at West Eckford Missionary Church at the corner of 19 and ½ Mile Road and F Drive South on Sunday, November 24 from 2PM to 5PM. Funeral services to celebrate Jim’s God and his life will be held on Monday, November 25 at 11AM at the church with his friend, Rev. David Nicholls officiating. Interment will follow at West Eckford Cemetery with Military Honors by the U.S. Navy Honor Guard.
The family suggests you remember Jim with a memorial contribution to West Eckford Missionary Church, 19697 F Drive South, Marshall, MI 49068. Envelopes will be available at the church during visitation.
Arrangements are by the Marshall Chapel of Kempf Family Funeral & Cremation Services. To leave the family a message, visit https://www.kempffuneralhome.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James E. Peck, please visit our floral store.
West Eckford Missionary Church
19697 F Drive South, Marshall MI 49068