Alexander James Sr., 74, Baptist church deacon

Posted: August 01, 2014

WHEN ALEX JAMES cooked the fish he caught, friends and family gathered around.

They were there not only to partake of the delicacies he wrought, but to try to spy out his secret recipes for readying the prizes for the grill, the frying pan or the oven.

"You had to watch him," said his daughter, Jill James Idan. "He didn't write anything down."

It was not that Alex wouldn't have shared his recipes. He was a famously generous man. But he was one of those cooks who cooked by instinct. He just knew what seasonings to use, tapping into some hidden reservoir of ancient wisdom.

Alexander James Sr., chairman emeritus of the deacon board of Jehovah Jireh Baptist Church, a heating and air-conditioning specialist who ran his own business for many years, an Air Force veteran and dedicated traveler, died July 26 after a lengthy illness. He was 74 and lived in Yeadon, Delaware County, but had lived most of his life in West Philadelphia.

"He was a wonderful man, full of life," his daughter said. "He was a model of character and integrity."

As a businessman, Alex, affectionately called the "Heater Man," didn't only install heating and air-conditioning equipment in homes and businesses, he also trained young people in the trade.

"He always had apprentices," his daughter said. "He trained many people in the business, and some of them started their own businesses."

Alexander James was born in Sumter, S.C., to Rebecca James and Wilbert DuBose. The family came to Philadelphia when he was a child. He graduated from Overbrook High School in 1959, and shortly thereafter entered the Air Force.

He served in Japan and Korea and became fluent in Japanese, a skill he retained his entire life. He was discharged in 1963.

Alex studied heating and air-conditioning at the Philadelphia Wireless Technical Institute. He worked for a number of companies before launching his own business.

He married the former Julianne Harmon on July 14, 1962. His wife is a social gerontologist and has been working on her doctorate at the University of Delaware.

Alex enjoyed taking fishing boats out from Cape May and Ocean City and was skillful in reaping the ocean's bounty.

His favorite breakfast was fish and grits, which he cooked himself and called his "ministry of fish and chips."

Alex and his wife traveled extensively, cruising to the Caribbean islands and Alaska, and visiting Spain and Italy, among other tourist destinations.

James served as chairman of the deacon board at Jehovah Jireh Baptist for 20 years. His son, the Rev. Alexander James Jr., is now assistant pastor. His daughter is church administrator.

"He lived a life that resonated the theme, 'He had a charge to keep and a God to glorify,' " his family wrote in a tribute. "Family and friends alike acknowledge that God blessed their lives through knowing him."

Besides his wife, daughter and son, he is survived by a granddaughter, Aleksaida "Aleksa" James.

Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Jehovah Jireh Baptist Church, 4807 Haverford Ave. Friends may call at 8 a.m. Burial will be in Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.

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