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Cattle rancher and retired Navy Chief James Wesley Stephens’s love of life didn’t come to an end with his death. He passed away in his sleep on Aug. 9, 2021 at the age of 70 after undergoing open heart surgery. His family and friends vow to practice his kind and giving nature to continue his legacy.

He joined the Navy during the Vietnam War and sailed the seven seas during his 22-year career before going to the fleet reserve in 1995. He was later retired and classified 100% disabled by the Dept. of Veteran Affairs; yet, continued to run a small cattle ranch in Holmes County, Fla., where he died. He was a former resident of Mathews, Virginia, and lived on North River Road.

During his career, Jim served on the USS Corry, USS Nimitz on which he was a plank owner, USS Virginia and USS Caron; was also stationed at Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force at MacDill AFB, Florida; to Commander Amphibious Squadron 8 Norfolk Naval Station, his last command was at NAVMASSO, Chesapeake, Va.

Besides his love of the sea and cattle ranching, he loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, horses, and horseback riding, German Shepherds and cats, restoring antique cars and driving his Corvette, and was often noted helping others in his community with selfless acts of kindness. He sported a snowy white beard and hair; was once stopped by a small child and asked if he was Santa Claus. He knelt by the child and said he was not but knew him well and the child told him what he wanted for Christmas; he would make sure Santa got the list.

Jim also found time to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Mason and a Shriner by Scottish Rite. He was a member in good standing of Bethlehem Lodge and Shaddai Temple.

Jim was born on Oct. 8, 1950 in Pittsburgh, Pa., the second of seven children to parents, Wesley and Martha Stephens.
He is survived by his loving wife of 39 years, Bette Lipsy-Stephens; sisters, Peggy and Susan; brothers, Wesley and Richard, and numerous nieces and nephews.