James (Jim) Leon Fish, 83, passed away on Thursday, August 12, after fighting complications from COVID-19. He is survived by his son Grant (Mary Ann) Fish; daughter Dr. Jennifer Fish; sister Louise (John) Decker; granddaughters Lauren, Abby, and Kari Fish; dear friend Nancy Tallmadge; great granddaughters Aubree and Nicole; and many Heifner family cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife Judith McFarland Fish.
Born on December 29, 1937 in Ashland to Kenneth and Mildred Fish, Jim enjoyed family farm life with his sister, Louise, and the extended Mabel Viola Heifner family. As a child, he loved his animals and any chance to help on the farm, whether by growing crops or fixing equipment. Jim attended Ashland City Schools and went on to graduate from Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering. During this time, he offered military service through the Army Reserves. Jim applied the skills and talents he so enjoyed to nearly forty years as a teacher of woodworking, driver’s education, industrial arts, and mechanics, both at Ashland High School and the Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center. For most of his career, he also owned and managed Ashland Mower—a repair business he operated from his home.
Alongside his active role in public education, much like his parents, community service formed a core of Jim’s life. Over the past fifty years, he held leadership roles in a range of organizations, including the Future Farmers of America, Rotary International, the Lion’s Club of Rowsburg, and the Silver Kings of Yesteryear. He became a Founding Member of the Ashland County Yesteryear Machinery Club and served actively on the Montgomery Township Zoning Board. As an American Red Cross blood donor, he consistently gave as often as he could for over fifty years. Upon his retirement from teaching, Jim took many different groups around the country as a tour bus operator, where he greeted every passenger with a candy basket and an extended hand for the first step. A pillar of community life, he always wanted to use his resources and skills to help others. In particular, he loved to design and produce items that supported a range of organizations. Jim held a special commitment to disability services and veterans. He earned the Dale Roy Services “Volunteer of the Year” Award in 2015. Jim was also instrumental in reviving the Ashland County Honor Bus trips to Washington DC, and dedicated over 15 years to this cause. He was active at the Southview Grace Brethren Church, where he enjoyed many years of fellowship.
Jim truly never met a stranger. He was a compassionate, humble, honest, patient, and generous model to both family and friends. A true talker, kidder, and storyteller, Jim loved the many connections he formed across generations in Ashland. As a father, he taught by daily examples of goodwill and kindness, with an innate ability to bring humor and calm guidance to any situation. He will be profoundly missed by many.
Jim and Nancy were among the first in line in Ashland to get vaccinated. His fervent wish would be that everyone who can be vaccinated does so, with continued direct attention to the need for a collective and cooperative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A celebration of life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Ashland County Honor Bus, the Rowsburg Lion’s Club, or a charity of your choice made in Jim’s name.
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