James Oliver Shumate, Jr, "Jim Shumate" to family and friends passed away on January 21, 2020.
He was born on March 23, 1946 and passed away on January 21, 2020.
Partner, friend and spouse, we created a household and home together for over 39 years in a union that spanned years of joy, turmoil, and support for each other. We met through our dear friend Diana Riehl and constructed our life as Jim created paintings and murals—with careful planning, joyful execution, and intense satisfaction and dedication.
Our transition from Arlington, VA to Harpers Ferry, WV was eventful, but it proved to be the best move ever for each of us. We moved to an estate that was peaceful, enchanting, and mysterious. It still is!
Jim was a walking encyclopedia of facts and legends. He remembered every birthday and special event of family members and close friends. He also insisted that we send them cards for those events and for every other special day like Valentines, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and, of course, Christmas. During the Christmas holiday travels to Kentucky, he and I would spend time with nephews and nieces. Jim taught them to love art and drawing and we both taught them to love nature, the arts, to be curious about living, and to develop a sense of humor.
There is a special story that Jim loved for me to tell and re-tell. When he and I traveled to Kentucky for Diane and Steve's wedding, I knew I would get to meet his Grandmother Shumate for the first time. She was a big woman in every sense of the word—bible thumping, conservative Southern Baptist, excellent cook and baker, and with a magnified voiced to boot. She was in a wheelchair by then. I was nervous to meet her, to say the least. But, when he introduced me to her, she took my hand and in a loud and thunderous voice that ricocheted across the reception room, welcomed me to the family and wished us a long and loved-filled life together. To say the least, I knew that very instant that I was in because nobody dared to contradict Grandma Shumate! Oliver and Margaret, Jim's parents and his family were equally welcoming and loving. My family was too.
Way before Google, Alexa, and Siri, Jim was the guy to go to for facts about movies, dates, directors, actors and memorable lines. He loved the cinema as much as he loved plays and concerts and museums. Both of us nurtured our intense love for the masters, as well as for contemporary artists. We both also loved jazz, classical and country music and any other form that was well played or sung.
Jim was born to be an artist. His vision came true. He was the happiest when he was painting or planning and executing murals for clients in their homes. Late in life, he wrote chapters on each of his murals. We had them printed into a book, "Murals in My Life". The stories he unfolded spoke about the murals he painted and also about the families in the houses in which he painted the murals. He also painted murals in our house. They are as varied and appropriate as the functions of each room—vibrant, energetic, soothing, and welcoming. They remain a testament to his tastes and love for this house, our home for almost 30 years now.
His talents also extended to wearable art. He painted and we sold Tees, tablecloths, napkins, and other assorted items. For me, he painted shirts, ties, dinner jackets, and even shoes. I wore many of them to work. Not the usual garb for a Federal bureaucrat! We had fun wearing the clothes he painted. He was the consummate colorist. To this day, I state that, "Jim is an artist, he just can't do it anymore".
He was the best friend a pet could ever have. From Titan, Jupiter, and Star, our Great Danes, to Argus and Oscar, our Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, to Callie, our Curly Coated Retriever, to our current pet Jet, our Black Lab, Jim was patient, caring, and loving. I almost felt left out because they bonded with him while I spent my days to and from work in Washington, DC. But they knew that both of us loved them dearly!
Alas, life takes unpredictable turns. The last seven years of his life were a gradual decline in most senses of the word. As his principal caregiver, I noted the changes and relayed them to neurologists and other physicians in our life. He was accepted into home Hospice early this year. It was a necessary approach to deal with his debilitating condition. Cortico Basal Syndrome is a pernicious degenerative disease that slowly and methodically robs the body of the essence of living. A mystery to all, perhaps one day it will be understood and conquered. For this reason, he agreed to donate his body to Johns Hopkins University Hospital for research purposes. His ashes will be scattered along the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry.
Happy dreams my love. I miss you already. Gil
PS: Mr. Shumate asked for a grand garden party with a jazz group. I'll arrange it for the coming Spring when the garden beds that he loved are full of energy and color---exactly his style. I let you know of the date.
To send flowers to the family of James Oliver Shumate Jr., please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.