James Craig Lichtenfels left his mortal bonds on Dec 8, 2016, at Miami Valley Hospital, after an amazing life, surrounded by loved ones.
James was born lucky on Aug. 21, 1954, at USAF Hospital, Burderop Park in Wiltshire England, to his adoring father and mother, James Jacob and Wilda Louise (Rottler) Lichtenfels and his beloved big sisters, Lynn and Gail. He led a charmed early childhood at the family estate, MillHouse, in the Cotswolds. When James was two, the family sailed to the States on the Queen Victoria, ultimately settling in Enon, Ohio. It was here James grew into his exceptional self, forming many friendships that lasted his lifetime.
James attended Enon Elementary, Indian Valley Middle School and Greenon High School, where he was an exemplary student, excelling in mathematics. He then attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, majoring in computer sciences. It was during this time James rejected being “boxed in” by formal education, and embarked on a journey seeking knowledge and freedom of thought and learned to live life on his own terms — Jimmie Free was born. He moved to Austin, Texas, and had the time of his life at University of Texas at Austin, enjoying the music scene, playing handball, riding his bike and swimming in Barton Springs.
James met the loves of his life, LaVena and daughter Jade, in 1988. James and LaVena were married at Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas in 1991. All who met them knew their love was unrivaled. In 2001, James was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, with a five percent survival rate of 18 months. A 15-year and eight-months battle ensued.
James loved life. He was a lover of animals, an avid bicyclist and a fierce handball player. He also loved planting trees. A well-read intellect, his political commentary and sharp wit kept those around him on their toes. Though we reel with heartache at this great loss, we should also reflect and rejoice on what a special privilege it was to have James in our lives.
“Maybe those doves could lead me to heaven
My mind rejects it
But I’m lost without it.” — JL
James was preceded in death by his father, James Jacob Lichtenfels; his mother, Wilda Lichtenfels; and his sister, Lynn Lichtenfels. He is survived by his wife, LaVena Lichtenfels; daughter Jade McConnell; sister Gail Lichtenfels; and niece Hypatia McLellan, all of Yellow Springs; niece Amy (Jim) Tate, of Dallas, Texas; nephews Simon Fagan, of McKinley, Texas, and Forest Fagan, of Atlanta, Ga.; and Zach Murray of Chicago, Ill.; and special friends George Melnikof (we couldn’t have done it without you), Gary Sanders, Rob Miller, John Murray, Dan Carrigan, Mike West and John Oyer, who stuck by him loyally through his illness.