James A. Jackson died on April 20, 2023, after a brief illness. A longtime Rye resident, he was devoted to his family, community, and the real estate development company he founded.
Born on June 23, 1925, his heritage included Scottish, Irish, and Dutch forebears on his father’s side, along with German, English, and French Huguenot blood from his mother. Among his ancestors were Matthew Marvin, one of the founders of Hartford, Conn. in November 1635, and Abraham Delavan, part of George Washington’s honor guard when the Continental Army retook New York City in late November 1783.
Busily industrious, his mechanical aptitude and superb draftsmanship were obvious even as a boy on Wagner Avenue in Mamaroneck. He attended the Mamaroneck Methodist Church, dutifully played the violin that his eager mother impressed on him, when he would rather have played the drums, and rose to the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts. He graduated from Bellows High School in 1943, subsequently serving in the U.S. Army, at Camp Crowder in Missouri. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in May 1946. On June 5, 1950, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Franklin and Marshall College, where he had spent most Saturdays frequenting car auctions and began his daily consumption of chocolate ice cream!
He met his future wife at a dance at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa. Jane Sheppard had requested only tall dancing partners; Jim admirably fit the bill at 6’, 4”. Married on October 16, 1954, at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Wilmington, Del., Jim and Jane took up residence in Westchester County. In 1966 they settled in Rye, where his grandfather Charles Walker had run a smithy on Purchase Street at the turn of the 20th century.
He was an endless repository of local lore garnered from his mother Harriet Walker, who grew up in a house whose site is now the Smith Street parking lot, and from his father James Jackson, whose family was from Mamaroneck. He often recalled the vanished stately homes on Boston Post Road, the wooden rooming house and movie theater that stood behind the current city hall, and his uncle’s home on what is now the Village Green.
Aside from his family, Jim’s great joys were his business, the J. A. Jackson Corporation, which began in an upstairs bedroom of the Jacksons’ house in 1955 and still operates in Mamaroneck, and his summer home on Lake George in the Adirondacks. One would often find him trimming every hapless bush or tree within reach, puttering about in the garage repairing everything under the sun, happily climbing a ladder, or using an electric saw with no safety gear in sight.
Jim Jackson loved talking to everyone and had the knack of drawing people together. For decades he was an active member of Rotary Club of Rye — who could forget his outdoor grapefruit sales every December! — where he served as treasurer and president, and where he was a Paul Harris Fellow. A longtime member of Rye Presbyterian Church, he served variously as deacon, trustee, and session member; he also sat on the board of the Rye Historical Society.
“Jim will always be remembered for his gentle, sweet smile, his boundless energy and willingness to help others, and that slightly naughty twinkle in his eye,” said his family to whom he was devoted. “He had a wry sense of humor, and was a patient, faithful friend. Action and work counted more for him than talk: a passionate real estate developer on the side, Jim could be found most mornings engrossed with his buddies Coby, Tom, Bob, Merrill, and Claude at the ‘Breakfast Club’ at Poppy’s Café. He cheered everyone he met, was endlessly kind, and always encouraged those who may not have had as many advantages.”
His memory will live on in the hearts of the countless people whose lives he touched with his grace, charity, and humility.
In addition to his beloved wife of over 68 years, Jane Jackson, he is survived by his children, J. David Jackson of Mamaroneck, Sally (John) Tobin of Rye, and Robert F. Jackson of Newtown, Conn.; his grandchildren, Katie Tobin (John Chavies), Amanda (Ben) Ripley, Jack Tobin, Chris Tobin, Daniel Jackson, and James Jackson; and great-granddaughters Victoria and Sonya Tobin-Chavies.
The funeral visitation will be held at Graham Funeral Home April 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. Interment will be private. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at Rye Presbyterian Church on Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m.
Gifts in memory of James Jackson may be made to the Rotary Club of Rye.