James Venable Fitzhugh
Born in Louisville, KY on Aug. 16, 1907
Died Aug. 22, 2006 and resided in San Antonio, TX.
Visitation: Thursday Aug. 24, 2006
MEMORIAL SERVICE: Sunday Aug. 27, 2006
Funeral Home: Porter Loring Mortuary
James Venable Fitzhugh (who was called by his middle name â€œVenableâ€ or by his wife â€œVenâ€ for most of his life) was born in Louisville, KY on August 16, 1907, during a time when his father was the pastor of a Presbyterian Church there. He died on August 22, 2006 at the age of 99 years and six days.
Both of his parents, Olin Minos Fitzhugh and Ara Agnes Venable, were native Texans and when Venable was about four years old, the family returned from Louisville to Texas, to San Antonio, where he remained for most of the rest of his life. He was the oldest of two, having had a younger sister, Dorothy. Venableâ€™s father left the ministry and entered the practice of law.
Venable was, like his father, of an introverted and serious nature, although he excelled academically enough in high school to be elected into the National Honor Society. When he was about 16, he contracted flu in the influenza epidemic and only learned many years later that he almost died of it. It was recommended that he move to another climate, so he lived with his aunts in Denver for a year.
He played sports, notably basketball and golf, and even played in the Texas Amateur Open at one point.
Following his education at Main Avenue High School, he attended San Antonio College. He then went to the University of Texas in Austin and earned his B.A. in Government, thinking that he would follow his father into the legal profession. It took him only a part of one semester in law school to discover that law wasnâ€™t for him, and he abandoned that goal. Having no other professional training, he worked for a time as a labor organizer, traveling through the South organizing those in the communications field.
He had always been interested in radio, which was in its infancy when Venable acquired his ham radio license. Later, in 1992, he received an award for having his ham radio license in continual operation for 70 years. His ham radio license (W5VL) has been in continual force since 1922, likely making him the oldest ham operator in Bexar County.
Eventually, he joined the faculty at San Antonio Technical and Vocational School as the second teacher in succession to set up their radio department and he taught there for a few years.
Venableâ€™s mother was a very cultured and refined lady and saw to it that both he and his sister learned to play the piano. Venable could actually play quite expertly, but rarely ever allowed others to hear him play. He also had a keen appreciation of poetry and would surprise others with spontaneous quotations from poems that might fit the occasion, usually something about the appreciation of beauty or Nature.
Venable met his future wife, Eloise Holman, when he crashed a church choir party one evening. They â€˜courtedâ€™ for over three years before getting married. After marriage, they lived in the Crescent Apartments, owned by his mother-in-law, Addie Holman. When WWII broke out, Venable quit teaching and worked briefly for the Civilian Signal Corp. at Stinson Field, but soon found a job working as a civilian at the Pentagon in the U.S. Signal Corp. He was too young to enlist for WWI and too old for WWII, but very much wanted to participate in the war effort. After a year at the Pentagon, during which the family lived in Fairlington, VA, he became disgusted with his job and left it and the family moved to West Hartford, CT, where he became the Associate Technical Editor of QST, the magazine for Radio Amateurs. First, his mother-in-law died back in Texas, and then, a year later, his own mother, and the family packed up and moved backed to Texas just as WWII ended.
There followed a succession of jobs: insurance salesman, ghost writer, finally he found his way into Civil Service and bounced from job to job until his retirement at age 62. He worked at the San Antonio General Depot at Fort Sam Houston, as a cryptomaintenance specialist for the Air Force Security, a language instructor at the Defense Language Institute, and finally as an instructor of X-Ray technology at Fort Sam Houston. All of this work in the field of electronics was self-taught.
In his 50â€™s, Venable was discovered to have glaucoma and his sight progressively deteriorated. At the age of 99, he was about 99% blind. He suffered a stroke in 1992 that weakened him along his left side, but he maintained his ability to walk, although quite slowly and carefully. In the 1950â€™s, Venable immersed himself for a time in astronomy as a hobby. He helped organize and became the Charter President of the San Antonio Astronomy Club. As a young boy, he belonged to the Boy Scouts and later helped out as an adult when his two sons were in Scouting.
The family lived in one home on West Huisache Ave. in San Antonio for about 13 years and then, in 1958, moved to a larger home adjacent to Trinity University. In 1988, both Venable and Eloise moved out and into an independent living facility when Eloiseâ€™s eyesight deteriorated to the point where she could no longer drive. After 54 years of marriage, Eloise died in 1990, and in 1991, Venable moved back into the family home, which was now occupied by Forrest. The two lived together since â€™91 and in â€™98, Forrest married Natasha and she became the third resident of the house. On Jan. 2nd of this year, Venableâ€™s fifth grandchild, Ilya Liam, was born and he was added to the household.
Venable enjoyed his retirement and gloried in being free of any required schedule.
Venable joined Madison Square Presbyterian Church in San Antonio in 1918 and lived long enough to become the churchâ€™s oldest continual member. He was always a very active and faithful member of this church, at one point serving as Deacon and serving a term as a Ruling Elder. For many years, he taught the Middlerâ€™s Class and he was honored several times for his service and loyalty to the church. Venable always had a gentle and positive disposition and disliked conflict or discord of any kind. He was sometimes described by friends as â€œthe last of the true gentlemanâ€ for his courtly manners and chivalrous demeanor, especially in the presence of ladies. He loved to tinker with radio and hi-fi equipment and in his latter years, he enjoyed making cassette tapes to various friends and relatives. His mind remained alert and his memory was still sharp and he had an uncanny knack for remembering significant dates from history and from his own personal past. He kept up with current events and followed sports as well.
He is survived by his two sons and their wives: Forrest and wife, Natasha, of San Antonio; and David and his wife, Marsha of Tulsa, OK. Also five grandchildren: James Fitzhugh, Kerri McQuin, and Ilya Liam Fitzhugh of San Antonio, and Elizabeth Ann Arent and her husband, Lee; and Katherine Marie Woodin and her husband, Rick, all of Victoria, TX. He is also survived by nine great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews of several descending generations.