James ‘Jim’ Strayhand remembered for love, support for family, Alcoholics Anonymous

By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal staff writer
Read full obituary on Ohio.com

James “Jim” Strayhand Jr. served many, but if you are not someone he helped, you may not know his name.

Those who did receive his compassion won’t forget it.

“He was very supportive, lots of fun to be around and just an all-around good guy,” daughter-in-law Chandra Pannell said. “He lived a big life in a quiet way.”

Mr. Strayhand, 78, of Copley Township died Dec. 31 of a heart attack.

The Goodyear retiree spent his final moments at a meeting with fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group he needed and one that often needed him.

Stepdaughter Karen Smith said Mr. Strayhand sponsored “a number of people” in A.A., gave numerous talks and influenced the beginning of the Interval Brotherhood Home Addiction Recovery Center. Yet even when he traveled overseas, going to Austria on behalf of his A.A. group in May, he offered few details from his trip.

A.A. member Walter C. shared a sobriety anniversary week with Mr. Strayhand. The two first crossed paths at a New Year’s Eve A.A. dance at the downtown Akron Portage Hotel on the night Mr. Strayhand decided he’d become sober. When the clock struck midnight and the year turned to 1967, Mr. Strayhand’s sobriety journey began.

“I got goose bumps and started to cry,” Mr. Strayhand told the Beacon Journal in 2010.

While the Beacon Journal follows the A.A. tradition of anonymity and only prints the first name and initial of the last name of A.A. members, Mr. Strayhand’s family approved the use of his full name.

His and Walter C.’s meeting resulted in a friendship that grew into a bond that lasted for nearly 50 years. Both lived in West Akron, went to dinner together, spent decades in the same A.A. group and even worked at the same company for a time.

“He and I, we were so close, if I didn’t feel like going he’d say ‘come on, we’re going,’ ” Walter C. said. “You saw one, most times you saw both of us. Not together, but at the location. We were both there for many, many years.”

The friendship greatly benefited Walter C. during his five decades of sobriety.

“That was good for me, because when you’re out on the street drinking you don’t have any friends,” he said.

With each remembrance of Mr. Strayhand, the word “supportive” is repeated. He didn’t have biological children, but he loved and cared about each of his eight stepchildren, lending an ear and offering advice when warranted.

He is survived by his wife, Norma Jean, with whom he had 32 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

“That’s the kind of heart he had,” Smith said. “That’s why he was so effective in his A.A., where he would sponsor and talk with people because he felt that everybody was very special and he was willing to give help and counsel to bring somebody else along that journey.

“That’s why he was so effective — because he cared.”

Family members recall him as a man who “absolutely loved” his grandchildren ­— running around family occasions snapping photos, scouring local fields until he found his grandchild’s athletic competition, and keeping up with them via technology.

“He loved Facebook-ing,” Smith said. “As a matter of fact I teased him about being on Facebook more than the young people. There was just some information and he’d say ‘Congratulations!’ or ‘Nice picture!’ before we even knew what we were talking about. That was his way of staying engaged with the family.”

But Mr. Strayhand spoke little of the work he did for others.

“He took his scooter and his cane and he went and did whatever service he had to do,” Pannell said. “We know that just by his actions there were a lot of people that he helped and sponsored.”

A celebration of the life of James Waverly Strayhand Jr. will be held at 12 p.m. Thursday at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, 442 Bell St., Akron. Condolences may be sent to 776 Kirkwall Drive, Copley Township, OH 44321.

Beacon Journal staff writer Nick Shook can be reached at nshook@thebeaconjournal.com.

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