Kenneth G. James, 75, postal clerk, bricklayer and Army veteran

April 10, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Kenneth G. James, a retired postal clerk who was known for his annual Mother's Day and Thanksgiving Day parties, died in his sleep April 3 at his Northwest Baltimore home. He was 75.

Mr. James, who was known as Gerald, was born in Baltimore and raised on Druid Hill Avenue. He was a 1947 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and attended what was then Morgan State College. During the early 1950s, he served in the Army.

He worked briefly as a bricklayer before joining the postal service in 1955. He was a window clerk at the Arlington and later Old Court post offices, where he worked for 20 years until his retirement in 1988.

Mr. James combined an outgoing personality with a booming voice. He was so well-liked that "at Christmastime, both Jews and gentiles alike gave him piles of presents," said his son, Ken James of Baltimore.

Mr. James was in his early 70s when he began designing and building a fence around his home that combined brick, iron and wood.

"People would stop by and look at it and ask if he'd build one for them," his son said.

When Mr. James celebrated his 75th birthday last month, he stayed up all night to see in his birthday.

"He did that because no one in his family had ever lived past 70," the son said.

Mr. James, who enjoyed cooking and entertaining, always celebrated the beginning of the Lenten season with a Shrove Tuesday pancake breakfast at his home for family and friends.

On Mother's Day, he'd prepare and serve a luncheon of shrimp Creole and other dishes for the mothers of his friends whom he invited to his home. Only women were invited, family members said.

"Gerald created a wonderful tradition, which was born of the respect he had for his own mother and for black women in general. He always marveled at how his own mother was able to raise five boys during the Depression with her husband away working most of the time," said Linda C. James, his daughter-in-law. "He would invite them to his home, where they would enjoy an afternoon of fellowship, prayer and poetry. He would present them all with flowers, and a good time was had by all."

His male friends also relished his stag Thanksgiving Day breakfasts.

"This event provided a tradition for his friends and their sons and even grandsons to come together as men and to give thanks and to enjoy each others' fellowship," Mrs. James said. "He realized how important it was for our male youth to interact with their elder males."

Mr. James was married for 20 years to the former Virginia C. "Gin-Gin" Hunt, who died in 1973.

He was an avid basketball and Ravens fan.

He was a lifelong member of New Shiloh Baptist Church, where services were held Thursday.

In addition to his son, Mr. James is survived by a daughter, Kay Curry of Owings Mills; two brothers, Ronald C. James and Robert F. James, both of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

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