Ivor businessman remembered as kind, friendly

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IVOR—Friends and relatives of James Russell West remembered the 84-year-old veteran, businessman, hunter and former mayor as a kind person who not only loved the people close to him but cared deeply for his community and strived to make life better for everyone.

“He was a very good man, and I was lucky to have him for as long as I had,” West’s granddaughter Ashlyn Scarborough said Tuesday. “He taught me a lot, and I’m going to miss his guidance and his advice. He was somebody I really looked to for that.”

West died Saturday after his morning walk. Funeral services were held Tuesday at Ivor Baptist Church with the Rev. Chad McGinnis and the Rev. Lytle Buckingham officiating. Burial followed with both military and Masonic rites at Ivor Cemetery.

West joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 at age 17 and served in the Philippines during World War II, but he was probably best known as the owner and chairman of the board of the Ivor Furniture Co., a business he started after the war, in 1949.

“He loved the furniture store,” Scarborough said. “That’s been his life. We were so lucky that when it burnt down in 1999 he wanted to build it back. He would come in and check on us. He never let the marquee out front not have letters on it. If there were customers walking around, he made sure that they had been spoken to and attended to. He was most involved.”

She added, “He always had his furniture store hat on. He always had a kind word. He was just a great, great person.”

Scarborough’s mother, Alice West Scott, echoed her daughter’s words.

“He always had a smile on his face,” she said. “He was a true gentleman. The business was very, very dear to him, but above all that was his love of his family and his community.”

Steve Fritton of Mechanicsville, one of West’s friends and hunting buddies for the past 15 years, said he was amazed at how much West had accomplished in life.

“He always got things done,” Fritton said Tuesday. “I don’t know a man that could get as much done as he did. He always was busy, but he never made you feel like you were being rushed. He was always in the process of doing something. I’m just blessed that I got to know him.”

Wayne Felts was friends with West since he was a little boy.

“If there anything you needed, he was there to help you and would do anything for you,” Felts said Tuesday. “He was really attentive to his wife (MaryAnn) and did everything he could for her.”

Felts’ wife, Patty, echoed that sentiment.

“He was a wonderful guy, and he was a pillar for our community,” she said Tuesday. “He kept us going and kept us on track. If something came about or got started in the community, he became very active in it and was glad to do it. He loved the community and he loved the people.”

West served as the mayor of Ivor from 1960 to 1964 and was one of the founders and a past president of both the Ivor Volunteer Fire Department and the Ivor Volunteer Rescue Squad.

He was also a lifelong member of Ivor Baptist Church, where he served as chairman of the Board of Deacons, a trustee and in many other capacities.

“He was a super guy and he’s done a lot for the town,” said Merle Monahan, West’s next-door neighbor and friend for 66 years.

For the past 50 years, West has been a member of both the Ivor Ruritan Club and Ivor Masonic Lodge 291, having served twice as past master of the latter. He was also a past chairman and member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Sussex and Surry, now BB&T. He served on the boards of Southampton Memorial Hospital, Southampton Academy, the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Baptist Home.

An avid turkey and deer hunter — and a member of the B&B Hunt Club — West often went hunting with Fritton.

“I had the opportunity to be on the last hunt with him back in the spring,” Fritton said. “The last turkey he killed, he was with his grandson and a boy from Florida. He really wanted his grandson and that boy to be with him. It was an excellent hunt to begin with, but now it’s that much more special to me to know that I was with him on that last hunt. I can live with that for the rest of my life.”

West also loved to have fun.

“One Saturday about three weeks ago we went up to the Wakefield ball park to play cornhole games,” Wayne Felts said. “We were the oldest ones in the group, and we came in fourth place out of 12 teams up there. He loved that game. He had (cornhole platforms) with ‘La-Z-Boy’ and ‘Ivor Furniture’ painted on the sides.”

Added Patty Felts, “He loved to have a little block party up here on the end of our street where we lived. He would do it at each holiday, and he was planning yesterday to have a big party. He kept our end of the street all together.”

Scarborough said that during an Ivor Furniture store sale in July, “It was his idea to have hot dogs. He cooked them out front for three days and he just loved it. I’m so glad he got to do that. We had been talking about what we were going to do for our annual fall sale. We asked Papa, ‘What are we going to cook?’ because it was such a big hit.”

But West’s generosity was what people said they would remember most.

“He was the most loving and giving man I have ever known,” Scarborough said. “He made many things possible for me that wouldn’t have otherwise been.”

West was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Washington West and Vera Johnson West, and three brothers, Charles W. “Pete” West, Dr. Marvin F. West, and Walter T. “Dink” West.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, MaryAnn Carr West; two daughters, JoAnn W. Hall and husband Mark of Smithfield and Alice W. Scott and husband Dixie of Ivor; two sisters, Nancy W. Raiford and husband Elton of Ivor and Margaret W. Schutte and husband Harry of Richmond; three sisters-in-law, Alethia West of Portsmouth, Virginia Rowan of Marietta, Ga., and Mildred B. West of Williamsburg; five grandchildren, Russell W. Frohman, Ashlyn S. Scarborough and husband Robert, Dusty Scott, Savannah Hall and Hayley Hall; and numerous nieces and nephews.