Veteran, political activist, engineer
James “Jim” Elton Stripling died peacefully at the Pacifica Hillsborough senior living community in Chino on February 7, 2017. He was 95.
He was born on May 13, 1921 in Quanah, a small town in Hardeman County, Texas, to James Elton Stripling and Rose Mary McKenzie Stripling. He was raised in nearby Sulphur Springs where he was a miler at his high school along with lettering in football. Through the latter pursuit, Jim was introduced to another sport that would become a lifelong passion.
In 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, the local football players were given first shot at caddying at the newly-built Sulphor Springs Country Club. He caddied for 25 cents a round and then, on Mondays, he and his teammates were allowed to play for free.
Jim graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 1938 and then, at age 20, hitchhiked 85 miles to Wichita Falls, Texas to join the 1st Marine Division. He served in the Pacific theater during World War II and fought in the jungles of Guadalcanal. The battle was a decisive victory for the United States and has been called a turning point in the war against Japan, but it came at great cost.
“We were the first unit there at Guadalcanal and we stayed in the Pacific for six months,” he recalled on the MyCommunityGolf website. “By the time we were sent back to the states, most of the guys had been killed or wounded or had malaria.”
Mr. Stripling remained dedicated to veterans’ issues throughout his life. After moving to Claremont upon his retirement, he joined the local demonstration against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan held at Indian Hill and Foothill boulevards for more than seven years and always made a point of riding and waving with fellow veterans in the city’s annual Fourth of July Parade, wearing his World War II military regalia. He also faithfully attended the yearly Memorial Day commemoration held at Memorial Park.
“We left a lot of people out there and recognizing us is, in fact, recognizing all the dead ones out there,” he told a COURIER reporter at the 2015 event. “It brings tears to my eyes because I had a lot of friends that didn’t come back. You’re honoring those people, not necessarily me—those that died for you, damn it.”
After the war, Mr. Stripling traveled the world, working many professions. Oil refinery engineering took his family of five around the world for 17 years until his retirement in 1985.
It wasn’t all work and no play, though. “I took my clubs wherever we went,” he said in a 2011 Redland Daily Facts article, noting that he had teed off in England, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Morocco and Algeria, among other destinations.
In 1981, Jim began playing at the Marshall Canyon Golf Course in La Verne where he served on the executive board of the men’s club and gathered with friends every Wednesday morning for more than two decades to practice his swing. He participated in his first Inland Valley Amateur Championship in 1985 and at age 89 was still playing in the tourney, vying against talented golfers of all ages. All that activity paid off for Mr. Stripling. “I’m healthy as a horse,” he told the Daily Facts. “I’m glad I made it this far. My advice is keep busy, both mentally and physically, but don’t over-push yourself.”
Settling in Claremont, Jim became an active and spirited contributor to the community, including membership in the Democratic Club. He revived the organization’s Voorhis Voice, compiling articles, editing, printing and mailing the newsletter to club members for several years. He staffed the club’s table on Sundays during the farmer’s market until 2012 and, all the way through 2015, was a volunteer for the Democratic Club’s booths at Claremont’s Fourth of July, Village Venture and Earth Day celebrations. He also served as a dapper bartender at the club’s annual holiday party.
After his wife’s death from emphysema, Mr. Stripling became a member of Clean Air Claremont, contributing to the 2012 campaign that led to the town’s passage of a resolution against second-hand smoke in public places. In 2014, he became a member of Claremont FLOW, supporting the city’s efforts to acquire the local water rights from Golden State Water Company.
Along with golf, Mr. Stripling’s hobbies included gardening with an emphasis on native and drought-tolerant plants, bridge, archery, marksmanship, racing cars, boxing, politics and watching his grandsons play football.
Family and friends say they already miss Jim.
“Death is only an illusion, it is just the start of a new eternal life, and Grandpa will finally be with Grandma again after nine years,” his grandson R.J. wrote, adding that he knows Mr. Stripling will be looking down on the family and smiling.
Mr. Stripling was preceded in death by his wife Colleen M. Stripling. He is lovingly remembered by his sister Lou, daughter Onya, sons Hank and Russ, daughters-in-law Anica and Lisa, son-in-law Mike and grandchildren R.J., Bradley, Cole and Mura.
A service and remembrance has been scheduled for Friday, March 3 at 1 p.m. at Todd Memorial Chapel, 325 N. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont. An informal reception and celebration will take place after the service at a local location still to be determined.