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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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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

☞Today in Old-West History — On today’s date 119 years ago, Sunday, October 19, 1902, notorious Old-West outlaw & fiddle player James Hardin “Uncle Jim” Younger (1848-1902) met his earthly demise at the age of 54 when he committed suicide by gunshot whilst on parole at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

☞Requiéscant In Pace, Jim Younger.

☞Jim Younger was one of the central figures of a band of the most desperate outlaws the Old West ever knew — the infamous James-Younger Gang, which was formed by Jim’s brother Cole Younger along with Frank & Jesse James.

☞Jim Younger joined the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) & served with Quantrill’s Raiders. In 1864, he was captured by Union troops & was imprisoned until the end of the War.

☞After the War, Younger worked on various ranches until he joined the James-Younger Gang in 1873. When his brother John was killed at Roscoe, Missouri in 1874, Jim left the gang & went out west where he worked on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, California.

☞In 1876, Jim returned to the gang, & on September 7 he participated in a bank robbery that became known as the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. During that robbery he was shot & captured. The James brothers escaped, but Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger were shot up by a posse, arrested, & sentenced to long terms in the state penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were afforded celebrity status.

☞Jim Younger’s fiddle was one of the few possessions that he was allowed to have with him in prison, & he played it often. As time passed, Jim noticed that a little bird would appear most every day in the window of his jail cell. It seemed as though the bird came to listen whenever Jim played his fiddle. Jim was lonely & he befriended the bird which he named “Swipsy.” The bird would fly into the prison cell & Jim would always try to have crumbs to feed Swipsy. One day, a fellow prisoner killed the little bird just for spite. Jim then painted a picture of Swipsy on the back of his violin to remember his little feathered friend.

☞In 1898, the prison warden allowed the prisoners to throw a Christmas party at his own home, with Cole Younger portraying Santa Claus & Jim Younger playing his fiddle.

☞Paroled in 1901, Jim became engaged to his long-time lover Alix Mueller; however, because of the terms of his parole he couldn’t marry her.

☞On October 19, 1902, after a failed attempt to sell tombstones & then insurance, Jim Younger locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note to Alix, picked up his revolver, & blew his brains out.

☞In 2013, Jim Younger’s fiddle, which was played by him at the famous 1898 Christmas party at Stillwater Prison, was sold at a Dallas, Texas auction for over $11,000.

☞The left-hand photograph depicts the image of Swipsy the Bird that Jim Younger painted on the back of his fiddle. The right-hand photograph depicts an undated studio portrait of Jim Younger.
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Tuesday October 5th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

For Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, CA., and all his descendants, PASO ROBLES FOUNDERS’ DAY 2021. See MoreSee Less