James G. Underwood

Mr. Underwood

James G. Underwood (Prof) of Johnstown, NY passed away at Mountain Valley Hospice on Sunday, June 9, 2019, the day of Pentecost. He was born on October 8, 1924, in Amsterdam, NY, the son of Margaret Lawson Greig Underwood and Garfield Underwood. He attended elementary school in Amsterdam, NY. The family moved to Broadalbin when he was seven years old. He graduated from Broadalbin High School in the class of 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served as an aviation radio man on a TBF Avenger torpedo bomber for three years in the Pacific Ocean traveling to Hawaii, Saipan, Japan, China, and the Philippines.

He returned home in 1945 and entered Cortland State Teachers College. He graduated with a BS degree in Physical Education and then completed his MS in 1953. While at Cortland State College, he was a member of the soccer team and ski team. He taught at Wellsburg, NY for two years and in 1951 he was hired by Eugen Conant, Superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District, where he taught for 33 years. Jim loved his teaching and coaching and shared his love of sports and physical education with thousands of students. He coached virtually every sport during his tenure at Johnstown High School. Jim saw the good in all kids and worked with not only his elite athletes and students but everyone in the community. Jim started sports for women in Johnstown schools and Section II long before the Title IX legislation. One of his greatest gifts as a coach and teacher was his ability to encourage his students and athletes to work hard and embrace that attitude in everything they did. He was a man of the highest level of character and humility. On April 25, 1974, a testimonial dinner was held for Jim at the Eagles Hall to honor him for “23 years of excellence to the kids of Johnstown through coaching” and declared April 25, to be Jim Underwood Day. Jim remained a mentor, fishing buddy, and friend to many in the years after they left Johnstown school. He enjoyed the visits from many of his students over the years.

For several years during the summer vacation, Jim took students on canoe and hiking weeklong trips to the Adirondack Mountains, Canada, and Newfoundland. He introduced them to the pleasures of camping and the lure of the Adirondack Mountains, lakes, and rivers.

On October 25, 1952, he married Ann E. McBurney, the love of his life, at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Ann and Jim were married for 66 1/2 years and spent nearly every moment together. They had four sons, James, John, William and Robert. Jim was a member of the St. John’s Episcopal Church where he served as a vestryman and worshiped faithfully.

He is survived by his wife Annie of 66 1/2 years and his sons, James (Carol), John (Olly), Bob (Heidi) and two dear daughters-in-law, Candy and Sue. He is survived by 10 grandchildren, Allison (Jamie), Katie, Nathan, Natalie, Nick, Alec, Iain, Ellie, Willie, Emma; and a step-grandson, Sergey; in addition to four great-grandchildren, Maura, Evan, Sophie and Caddis. Jim has three dear cousins, Eleanor, Roberta and Judy and seven dear nieces, Carol, Janet, Gale Libby, Jenny, Mary Ellen, and Renie. In addition he was survived by his sister-in-law, Kay and husband Paul. He was predeceased by his sister, Edythe Carpenter; and his son, William, who died at age 22 in a tragic fishing accident.

Jim was a talented wood carver who was especially known for his Christmas Santa carvings, which he gave away each year. He was also an oil and watercolor artist and a prolific writer of poems and stories of his love for the Adirondack Mountains. He also left a wonderful legacy for his family by building them a beautiful log cabin on the shores of Schroon Lake in 1960, and teaching his boys to love the rivers, mountains, and nature. He was an avid fisherman, cross country skier, camper and appreciated the wonders for the outdoors. Jim and Annie continued to cross country ski up to his age of 92 and was out fishing last spring on Lake George with his buddies.

At Jim’s request, at this time there will be no viewing hours or services as he has graciously donated his remains to the Albany Medical College Anatomical Gift Program. Jim is profoundly grateful to his community and friends and his wishes were to celebrate his life later this summer when a special gathering will take place. A future date will be announced for friends and family to gather for a memorial service. James will be buried in Evergreen Cemetery next to his son, William. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. John’s Episcopal Church, the William A. Wright Scholarship Fund, Mountain Valley Hospice or a charity of one’s choice.

Jim was just an ordinary man who lived an extra-ordinary life. He was a child of God.

By Josh Bovee

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