James Spence

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 13, 2007

Mass for James M. “Jim” Spence, 50, of Gulfport, who died Tuesday, April 10, 2007, will be Monday, April 16, 2007, at St. James Catholic Church in Gulfport.

Visitation will be one hour prior to the Mass.

Jim was born Aug. 22, 1956, in Jackson, at St. Dominique’s Hospital. He was the sixth of seven children and was preceded in death by three brothers and twin sisters later to be followed by a younger brother.

Jim attended elementary and junior high school in Natchez at Cathedral Catholic School. He later attended high school at South Jones High School in Ellisville and graduated in 1974. After high school, he attended Jones County Junior College from 1974 to 1976, He then transferred to University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala.

Jim’s career in physical therapy began in 1978 when he graduated for the University of South Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. Upon graduating he joined Physical Therapy Associates out of Wharton, Texas, and practiced in Texas and Missouri before going to the coast in 1980 where he joined the physical therapy staff at Garden Park Community Hospital. He went on to becoming the Director of Physical Therapy at Garden Park where his clinical and administrative skills earned him Physical Therapy Associates Therapist of the Year award. In 1982, he entered private practice and co-founded Gulf Coast Physical Therapy Group. Jim always pursued clinical excellence and in 1983 earned his certificate in orthopedic manual physical therapy from the Gulf Coast Graduate Physical Therapy Institute. He went on to become a Board Certified Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. He served his profession as president of the Mississippi Physical Therapy Association and in many other capacities over the years. Jim was dearly loved and admired by his co-workers and colleagues.

Jim’s personal hobbies included walking, running, bicycling, boating and fishing. His passion for fishing the grass beds at Chandeleur Island was deep-seated. Jim, as his friends and family knew him, looked forward to each and every fishing trip. He would often tell family and friends that he would get so excited to be making a fishing trip that he would lose sleep the night before the trip. His passion for catching speckled trout or red fish on that gold Calcutta reel was shared over the past 30 years with his children, stepchildren, wife, brother, father and many friends. Jim had several sayings that entertained all his fishing buddies and they are priceless. Sayings like “Hold ‘em little hook, make it happen cap’n” and when asked how to navigate back to Gulfport from the Island, Jim would be heard to say “Steer 330 when you’re dirty” to make it home. He was truly admired by many fishing buddies for his knowledge and skill of fishing. Jim loved his Catholic faith, his wife, children, and stepchildren with all his being. His devotion to his family was evident in his relentless nurturing, caring ways at home. Jim will never know how much he has touched and continues to touch the lives of his many friends, family, patients and professional colleagues over the 50 years of his life on earth.

He was known as Dad, Mr. Jim, Mr. Fix-it, and Mr. Fishgutz who “knew everything.” We will miss you and will love and remember you always.

Jim was preceded in death by his mother, Lottie Ware Spence.

Survivors include his wife, Kathie Spence of Gulfport; his father, William G. Spence Sr. of Long Beach; his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Robert and Virginia Percha of Dearborn Heights, Mich.; his son and stepsons, Eric Spence, Christopher Niehaus, and Bradley Niehaus, all of Gulfport; his daughter and stepdaughter, Amanda Spence and Hayley Niehaus, both of Gulfport; his brothers, Bill Spence Jr. of Pass Christian, Chuck Spence of Prairieville, La., Richard Spence of Brookhaven and Joe Spence of Long Beach; his sisters, Judy Bordelon of Long Beach and Jan Spence of Perdido, Fla.; and his granddaughter, Madison Spence of Gulfport.

An online guestbook may be viewed and signed via www.riemannfuneralhomes.com.