Being the second to the oldest of his five siblings, he felt a huge responsibility to care for his little sisters while their father worked in the woods and their mother succumbed to tuberculosis, a highly contagious lung disease almost always ending in death. He demonstrated his sense of duty and fairness as he and his sister Joyce decided to take turns going to school so that the other would stay home and take care of the youngest siblings. Unfortunately, the children were not aware that their father paid a relative on the reservation to feed and care for his children while he was out working in the woods because they had no food to eat.
Can you imagine that level of fear, not knowing where to get food for your younger siblings at the age of 11 and still trying to go to school? Later, in the following year Arnold was killed in a logging camp hotel fire, then the seven siblings were orphaned. Lawrence, Carol and Nubby were sent off to the Chemawa Indian Boarding School in Salem, Ore. After growing up in the boarding school, Lawrence enlisted in the Navy while still a teenager, worked as a machinist and served in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
When he returned to the U.S. and was honorably discharged from the military, he worked doing a variety of jobs. Many farm worker jobs, construction, logging, truck driver, and landscaper to name a few. He has a great story about driving a truck full of baby chicks from the Calistoga area to the Oakland area to be shipped. The goal was to get the baby chicks there as fast as possible without killing them. Speeding was OK as long as he didn’t get caught.
Lawrence leaves this world without being married or having children, but he had the love and respect of all his siblings, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, cousins, friends, employers, and of course, the ladies. Uncle Lawrence left this earth a rich man, one full of love and respect from all who knew him. He actually had to stop attending a certain senior nutrition site because the ladies started fighting over him and who was going to sit next to him. It was like a rock star came to town!
Every job he worked, he performed with the highest regard I have ever seen in a worker. He demonstrated loyal dedication to his bosses and always did the best job within his ability. He was not a complainer about anything. He did not say bad things about other people, even when a relative would try to get him do some bad mouthing about someone, he would just laugh.
One of his favorite sayings he would say was, “You know me,” and smile that sweet smile that lit up his face. He was friend to all, including children and animals. They were attracted to his kindness. He loved sitting in the sun and warming himself like a lizard on a rock, he would say. He enjoyed how the sun warmed his bones and muscles in his later years. He enjoyed doing puzzles and brain teasers for fun. Although he was shy, kind, sensitive and loyal he expressed his sense of humor through his art and cartoons.
Uncle Lawrence was an independent man that had a lot of dignity. He was a kind gentleman that felt his family was the center of his life. He cared for many of our babies and small children. Uncle Lawrence was a great uncle that any child not only felt safe with, but felt extensive love and attention from. Generations of our family have enjoyed the loving attention this man was willing to give all of us and never asked for anything in return except to remember him once in awhile. He loved life and fought his cancer diagnosis with the same gusto you would apply to doing a good job, all or nothing. He used all of the natural medicines prescribed him to the letter of the instructions.
We can still hear his voice when he was joking around saying, “Eberrybody dance! I’ll have one for me and my partner!”
James leaves behind his siblings Carol Joyce Steele, Donald “Nubby” James, Shirley Mae Milligan and Nadine James Cribbins. He was preceded in death by Garold Lee James, and parents Arnold Warren James and Cecelia Santos James.
Other relatives include his nieces and nephews: Sharon Marie Steele Mejia, Daniel Thomas Steele Jr, Janice Elaine Rodriques, Bert Nathaniel Steele, Jon Randolph Steele, Patricia Carol Bettega, Sandra Louise Steele, Deanna Joy Steele, Kelly James, Debbie James, Denise James, Helen Cissna Maldonado, Duane Curtis Cissna, Eric Miles Cissna, Earl Noah Milligan Jr, Kenneth Lance Cribbins; the next generation of great nieces and nephews: Daniel Steele III (Bear), Carol Steele, Josh Steele, Lawrence Steele, “Little” Bert Steele, Bonnie Kibby Steele, Natasha Carol Steele, Edwin Bettega III, Garold Arnold Bettega, Tanaiah Bettega, “Messy” Arnulfo Salas, Antonio Salas, Andrew (Chucky) Salas, Nadine Salas, Alejandro Salas, Romeo Steele, Ebony Iona Steele, Quentin Steele, Kia Steele, Ruby Steele, Anastasia “Stacey” Mitchell, Sheri Ellen Mitchell, Darian Rose Cissna, Cody James Cissna, Jared Miles Cissna, Courtney Dawn Milligan and Ashley Renee Cribbens.
Pallbearers at James’ funeral were Arnulfo Salas, Andrew Salas, Larry Steele, Romeo Steele, Eric Cissna and Garold Bettega. Honorary pallbearers were Bert Steele, Daniel Steele, Clifford Scott, Randy Steele, Don Cribbins and Don James.
Funeral Services were held on Jan. 2, 2014, at Wier’s Mortuary.
Please sign the family’s online guest book at wiersmortuary.com.
Arrangements are under the direction of Wier’s Mortuary Chapel.