November 23, 1926 – May 22, 2019
James Shelton Rissler, 92, passed away quietly in his Golf Drive home of almost 50 years in one of his three favorite chairs. He is preceded in death by his parents, John W. and Nina Knight Rissler, his brothers, John Bill and Gordon, his wife, Ladye Deane Thompson Rissler and his grandson, Theodore James Fritz.
Born at home near Houstonia, Missouri, Jim was raised on a small dairy farm. He was active in school, playing baseball, basketball and the alto horn, and graduated from Houstonia High School in 1943. He helped on the family farm by milking cows, delivering milk, raising chickens and selling eggs. He worked at Panhandle Eastern before volunteering for the Navy at age 17 and was called to duty in 1944. Jim was trained in radio, radar, operations and gunnery school within the Navy in Great Lakes, IL, Purcell, OK, Corpus Christi, TX, Memphis, TN, Kansas City, MO, and Lido Beach, Long Island. He was trained as a radioman on PBNs, one of the most widely used seaplanes of WWII. He was honorably discharged in 1946 after the war was won.
Upon returning to Pettis County, Jim married his high school sweetheart, Jimmy Jean Hand in January, 1947. Together, they had three children, James W. Rissler (Maurita), Tomi Sherry Blackburn (Max) and Russell Thomas (Katie). He ran a Standard Oil gas station in Houstonia for nine years and sold State Farm Insurance. In 1964, Jim married Ladye Deane Thompson, and they had one daughter, Dana Lee Rissler Fritz (Scott). He has numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews who will carry on his unique legacy of clever humor and yarn-telling mixed with common sense, straight talk.
His life may be more readily defined by his more than 45 years of employment as a school photographer for Inter-State Studios in Sedalia. He covered territory in western Missouri from Iowa to Arkansas and as far east as West Plains and Jefferson City. He loved working in the schools and always said “school people are good people.” He was the “picture guy” for thousands of students and teachers and had a reputation for remembering kids from year to year as well as the nicknames he had assigned to them. From 1950 to 1985, Jim was also a high school basketball referee. He loved the friendships he made through refereeing and lived by the rule, “If it’s a foul on one end, it’s a foul on the other.” Throughout his career he worked games at the highest level in mid-Missouri and throughout the state. He was selected to officiate the 1965 Class S Boys State Basketball Championship, and in 1973 was honored to be asked to referee the first ever Girls State Basketball Championship. In 2003, he was recognized by the Missouri State High School Activities Association with a lifetime achievement award for officiating as well as evaluating referees for MSHSAA and was inducted in the Missouri Officials Hall of Fame.
Jim served for many years on the Sedalia Park Board, Sedalia Police Board and Sedalia Library Board. He was a Red Cross volunteer for Bothwell Hospital for more than twenty years. In August, 1984, he was honored to be a driver in the motorcade that brought President Ronald Reagan to the Coliseum in the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Jim remained an active member of First Christian Church serving as deacon, elder and church league softball coach. His long-time connection to the Bethany Class at First Christian was a point of genuine pride and joy for him.
You might also remember Jim as a regular bike rider in Southwest Village or grandstand ticket taker at the Missouri State Fair or award-winning photographer and cucumber grower or pithy letter-to-the-editor writer in the Sedalia Democrat (he had his opinions, like ‘em or not). He loved dogs beyond normal human reckoning, especially Willy, Butsy and Toby, may they rest in peace. He was recycling before recycling was cool. But
you remember him as the guy watching the day go by (almost no matter what the weather) from the vantage point of a bedraggled aluminum lawn chair on his driveway. He loved seeing the cars go by, observing the kids playing Mother May I, Four Square and Ghost in the Graveyard, laughing at the inevitable squirrel battles, listening to the Cardinals on the radio or simply monitoring the grass and geraniums grow. He will be dearly missed and will be remembered as the last of a unique kind of man: born humbly, hard-pressed by the Great Depression, boundaries widened by military service, willing to work hard to make a place, always loved by and loving his family. He went out as he came in – at home and on his own terms. So be it.
Visitation will be held at 9:30 am on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at First Christian Church in Sedalia. A funeral service will follow at 10:30 am led by Reverend Dr. Chad McMullin. Burial will follow at the Houstonia Cemetery. Pallbearers will be James Rissler, Jared Rissler, John T. Rissler, Matt Thompson, Sam Jones, Eric Walker, Steve Craighead and Ed Sanders. Honorary pallbearers will be Keith Anderson, Norman Bell, Max Lewis, Dale Norfleet, Rick Pettit, G. Roger Rissler, Aric Snyder and John Swearngin. Memorials are suggested to First Christian Church, 200 South Limit, Sedalia, Missouri.