by David Shannon
James Keopf was a man whose faith seemed to grow stronger as long as he lived. He was born and raised in East Nashville. He graduated from Hume-Fogg High School. There he developed a love for cars while taking Auto Mechanics Classes. During his youth he worked at a local grocery store. This would prove to be a work in which he excelled. He began at the age of 13 working as the bottle boy and eventually became store manager. He was the store manager who opened the Bill Crook’s Grocery in Shiloh Plaza. Later in life in an effort to work less hours and weekends for the sake of his family, he transitioned to grocery brokerage. He was the first to sell a bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce to a store in Tennessee. After some time there was a major cutback of 400 jobs in his company. James’ career change in his midlife was approached with an opportunist attitude. “I’ve always wanted to try real estate” he said – so he did. Hollace McKinley talked with him about joining their team before he had his real estate license. In November of ’65 James joined the U.S. Navy, serving on a mine sweeping ship. In ’71 he returned to civilian life; again continuing his work in the grocery business. His mother, Hattie Jernigan, was a nurse at Baptist Hospital. Several times she had mentioned this young nurse who was working with her, suggesting that James should call her. Ambitious about their meeting Mrs. Jernigan would also mention to the young nurse her wonderful son. One afternoon when James came to pick up his mother from work he noticed and inquired about a young nurse he had seen. His mother gladly informed him it was Carol, the nurse she had told him about. The next day on St. Patrick’s Day they talked. The next day he gave her a ride home from work. Four months later they were engaged and on the following St. Patrick’s Day they were married. A little over a year later Jay was born. Chris and Jeremy completed the sons. But something was still missing. Each time Carol would go to the doctor to have give birth, they would take a little dress along, in hopes that a daughter would be born. When Sandra, Mandy, and Marie married their sons, James and Carol made it clear they were their daughters. They loved them dearly. On one occasion James turned to Carol and spoke of the girls as he said, “We waited a long time to have daughters and these three were worth the wait.” James loved his family. He loved Carol. He wanted to provide for her anything and everything she wanted. His love was generous. He loved his sons. He was firm. He held God before them and he held God before himself for them to see. Those three things were James’ advice about how to raise sons. James loved his grandchildren. He couldn’t hide the pride he had when they were present or even when their names mentioned. Many of us have commented how he “left his mark on Jameson” because he favors James. James would smile as if the highest compliment in the world had been paid to him. Then to lighten it a bit he would add, “He is a good looking young man, isn’t he?” James loved Carol’s family. He considered it an honor to be a part of the King family and president of the “Outlaw Club!”
Read 1 Timothy 3:12-13 and notice God’s design of deacons. They are to be servants in God’s family because they have first served their families. Paul said when they do this well, they are found in good standing and even have boldness in the faith. James Keopf was a diligent deacon serving in one of the oldest ministries in the church serving the widows ( Acts 6). He “served well.” Seeing the love for his wife and the way he led her and his sons, qualified him to serve the Lord’s family also. We miss him much. A prince of a man has fallen. A great servant has entered into his rest. James showed us how to live and die. He did so in good standing with friends, family, church family, and we believe, with God. He faced life and death with boldness. By faith, we believe he will face judgment in the same way. Carol was asked, “What would James say to you now?” She believed his response would be, “It’s all going to be okay.” By faith, we believe him. As the days are difficult, let’s all “take three deep breaths” and think about the time we will meet again!
James Keopf battled cancer. His funeral was on the Lord’s Day, Veterans Day and His birthday. Let’s pray for this good family and ourselves .