J.R. "Jake" Durham, 91, died Wednesday, June 24, 2020,
He was born Aug. 22, 1928, in Granite City, Ill. He grew up in Granite City where he was very active in wrestling as a three-year-letterman, captain of the team and had two undefeated dual seasons. Following high school, he continued his wrestling career at Arkansas State University which was in its first year of a wrestling program. He lettered and was captain of the team all four years and was a two-time All American and National AAU Champion. He also attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
He married Ruth Anita Robinson on Dec. 24, 1951, in Piggott, Ark. He was a U.S. Army veteran where he spent 2½ years and served in Korea as a platoon leader with the famed 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th division. While in the army, he was given the name "Jake". Following his discharge from the army where he obtained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, he continued his service in the Army Reserves and the Kansas National Guard, retiring after 29 years as a Lt. Colonel.
He taught school in Piggott, where he was the assistant high school football coach and junior high principal and teacher. His plans were to get his master’s degree in school administration but a call from his college wrestling coach put him in touch with the principal of Norton Community High School. He was offered a job as wrestling coach and they moved to Norton in 1955. He taught P.E., American History and Driver’s Ed and also coached track teams but he is best known for head wrestling coach where he led his teams to numerous championships and wins at the local, regional, and state levels.
He was very active in the Norton community. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church, a member and past commander of the Post No. 63 Harmonson-Redd Amercian Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Chamber of Commerce, member and past president of the Lion’s club and men’s and couple’s bridge clubs. He organized the Norton Veteran’s Day parade for over 50 years and also started the Norton Little Kid’s Wrestling program.
Survivors include his wife, Ruth Durham, Norton; two sons, Joseph Durham and wife, Sara, Cimarron, James Durham and friend, Sue Ann Stutheit, Norton; a grandson, Jordan (Victoria) Durham, Mount Dora, Fla.; a great-grandson, Julian Michael Durham, Mount Dora; a sister, Sarah Carver, Waterloo, Ill.; three sisters-in-law, Paula Hollis, Jonesboro, Ark., Judy Heaton Robinson, Springfield, Mo., Amanda Dalton Lane, Germantown, Tenn.; six nieces and seven nephews; and other relatives and many friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Daniel Jay; a brother, George "Bull" (Joan) Durham; a sister, Betty Jo (Walter) Polka; a sister-in-law, Tica (Gus) Camp; three brothers-in-law, John Richard Robinson, Fred Hollis and Duane Lane; and four nephews, Steve Polka, Charles "Chuck" Dalton, Richard "Ricky" Robinson and Steve Dalton.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church, Norton; burial will be at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Norton Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Enfield Funeral Home, Norton.
Memorials are suggested to Jake Durham Scholarship Fund through Norton County Community Foundation in care of the funeral home.
Condolences can be sent to the family at www.enfieldfh.com
Due to the Covid issue – the guidelines for the national Methodist Church requires you to wear a mask if attending the service inside the church.