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Heather Lee James, Dead at 23 from Diabetes

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Regardless of age, diabetes kills.

Heather Lee James, at a James family reunion in Science Hill, Kentucky, Memorial Day 2008

The future of Heather Lee James lay before her. By all appearances, Heather looked to be healthy, and in the bloom of her life. But Heather knew her diagnosis with diabetes could prove a deadly obstruction to her future happiness.

Though she was young, energetic, and vibrant, Heather was encountering problems already.

The disease had begun to impact her so much that Heather no longer trusted herself to live on her own. Heather moved back into the Ohio home of her parents, Richard Lee & Gretchen James.

The safety of her family circle was not enough to stop what diabetes can do.

Diabetes Sudden Impact

The family had plans for the afternoon on which Heather died. Early that morning, Heather announced she wasn’t feeling well. She returned to bed. As the time to leave grew closer, Richard reminded Heather to get ready.

Downstairs, Gretchen heard Heather enter the bathroom and close the door. She then heard a thud. Gretchen went upstairs to the bathroom to see what happened. Heather had locked the door. Gretchen called to Richard for help.

Richard busted through the door to find Heather lying on the floor, lifeless and barely breathing. Gretchen called for the paramedics and ambulance. Richard held Heather in his arms. When the paramedics arrived, Heather was dead.

The paramedics came to the bathroom doorway and saw Richard standing over Heather’s body. They asked several questions about identification and what happened. Richard was anxious. He knew Heather was dead, but he still held hope the paramedics could help. They asked Richard to wait outside the room. He and Gretchen were too much in shock. It never occurred to them the paramedics first thought they might have arrived at a crime scene. That was October 31, 2008.

Family Affliction of Diabetes

Heather’s father, Richard Lee James, at the James family reunion in Science Hill, Kentucky, Memorial Day 2009

The following Memorial Day, Richard, Gretchen, and Heather’s brother Randy Michael James, drove south to Science Hill, Kentucky for their annual family reunion. Richard remained speechless and numb throughout the day. Everywhere he looked was the reminder of Heather’s presence at the same reunion the year before.

Richard, Gretchen, and Randy returned for the reunion in 2010. Richard finally opened up to tell the story of his daughter’s tragic death. Richard appeared much thinner than he was in years past. He confirmed he was on a diet and exercise program. He had lost 70 pounds. He planned to continue and lose more.

Surprisingly, Richard lifted the backside of his shirt, clear to his neck. There, on his right shoulder, was a tattoo of Heather, as accurate a depiction of Heather as a photo taken of her two years before. Diabetes had stolen Heather from him, but it could not steal his love for her. Richard insured Heather would be with him until the day he dies.

Tattoo of Heather Lee James on the shoulder of her father, Richard Lee James

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Stray Leaves Daily

Stray Leaves Daily

Daily updates from the official website for the family & friends of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealogy databases.

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2 weeks ago
Stray Leaves Daily

WELL, PULL MY TEETH! Dr. Timothy Michael Huckabee & staff wear Huckabee Dental’s own brand of dental scrubs in Southlake, TX. Dr. Tim is a 4th great-grandson of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May, and a 3rd great-grandson of Cyrenius Wait James & Amanda Hall. That’s how his James genes from Pulaski Co KY took root in TX. Dr. Tim’s grandmother is Anna Ruth James-Wingo. With her degree in journalism, Anna later studied at Cambridge University in England. Back home, she was an officer in the Parent Teachers Association, a charter member of the Wills Point Historical Society, special correspondent to the Dallas Morning News, and was chosen Woman of the Year by the Rotary Anns in 1976. The Wills Point High School named the Wingo Library in honor of her and her husband David Stimson Wingo in 1998. Anna wrote books for her grandchildren and a legacy of memory stories for the James family titled “Roots and Wings”. Dr. Tim is also a 3rd cousin of Frank & Jesse James. When requesting services, be sure to ask him for "the outlaw discount." See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago
Stray Leaves Daily

JESSE JAMES & JIM YOUNGER? Stray Leaves responded to this submission, saying, "Following the recent 6-year fiasco of a tintype image and its claims, wanna-be images keep on coming our way, as you surmise. They add to the hundreds already on file with the James Preservation Trust. While you may see ‘a passing resemblance,’ our experience takes us way past any such consideration. However, old tintypes are always fun to see. Thank you. See MoreSee Less

JESSE JAMES & JIM YOUNGER? Stray Leaves responded to this submission, saying, Following the recent 6-year fiasco of a tintype image and its claims, wanna-be images keep on coming our way, as you surmise. They add to the hundreds already on file with the James Preservation Trust. While you may see a passing resemblance, our experience takes us way past any such consideration. However, old tintypes are always fun to see. Thank you.
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