August 6, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Taps played for the last time on August 1, 2020 for Lieutenant Colonel (retired) James MacKenzie Scott, as his suffering from stage four metastatic prostate cancer mercifully ended. Jim was a devoted husband, loving father, dedicated brother, and loyal friend, who proudly served his country as a career military officer.
Born on March 26, 1936 to the late William James and Florence Mackenzie Scott, Jim endured tragedy early, when his mother, a registered nurse, died due to a diabetic coma when he was four years old. Thankfully, within two years, his dad fell in love with a vibrant, young Army nurse named Katharine “Kitty” Hayward and they married in 1942. The family set up their home in Plainfield, NJ and within a few years they moved to nearby Watchung, NJ. The family grew to include Jim’s brother, Richard Hayward Scott, in 1944, and then his sister, Virginia Elizabeth Scott, in 1947.
Due to his father’s jobs with the Army Air Corp and later, Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), Jim moved several times throughout childhood — from Watchung, NJ to Tucson, AZ to El Paso, TX and even to Caracas, Venezuela.
During his formative years, he earned the Boy Scouts’ highest rank of Eagle Scout and membership into the scouting national honor society, the Order of the Arrow.
Jim attended North Plainfield High School, forging friendships that sustained him throughout his life. After graduating high school in 1954, he headed south to The Citadel, in Charleston, SC.
Jim excelled at The Citadel, earning membership into Tau Beta Pi, the nation’s oldest engineering honor society. He was awarded a spot in the Citadel’s Honor Company and was honor guard for visiting dignitaries, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But college wasn’t all work; Jim recounted memories of Citadel “hops” or dances, one of which featured the famous bandleader Tommy Dorsey, inspiring Jim’s lifelong enjoyment of big band music.
When Jim graduated from his beloved Citadel in 1958, he embarked on a military journey that would take him around the globe and introduce him to men and women who would become like family to him for the rest of his life, providing brotherhood, friendship, and love despite the time and distance between them.
His career began at Fort Belvoir, Virginia for Engineer Officer Course (EOC) then on to Fort Benning, Georgia for the US Army Basic Airborne Course, where he earned his jump wings.
After completing jump school, he headed back to Fort Belvoir for the Atomic Demolition Munition (ADM) course, then on to Aschaffenburg, Germany, where Jim was team chief for atomic demolition munitions. After serving in Germany, Jim transferred to Stanford University in California, where he completed his master’s degree in industrial engineering and economics.
Jim went on to Fort Belvoir for the Engineer Officers Career Course (EOCC) and then came a civil works assignment at Corps of Engineers North Central Division office in Chicago. In 1964, following a massive earthquake in Alaska, he headed to Anchorage as part of the federal response to the disaster. This was in the days before Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but was a precursor of his future post-military career work with FEMA and The American Red Cross as part of each group’s disaster response efforts.
While not disaster-related, when he was in Anchorage and living at Elmendorf Air Force Base, he did most of the work and testing to earn his private pilot’s license, but was just short 30 hours of flight time when he left there for Fort Bragg and the Military Assistance Training Advisor (MATA) course to prepare him for his first tour in Vietnam, in 1965.
Jim would go on to complete two tours in Vietnam and was then stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. There, Jim (with his middle name of MacKenzie) would be introduced to Barbara McKenzie by a mutual friend who called them “tocayos,” or “same names,” since they shared the Mac/McKenzie in common — however, they’d jokingly debate from then on as to who correctly spelled it!
Barbara was a Peace Corps volunteer who was stationed in a village a few hours outside of Panama City but would occasionally come into town to enjoy the modern amenities of a big city, such as a bathtub! The romance blossomed over traded letters and they soon got engaged.
After getting married on February 22, 1969 in Barbara’s hometown of Laurinburg, NC they honeymooned and drove west to Jim’s appointment at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Then it was back to Fort Belvoir where they welcomed their first daughter, Margaret Shuford, in 1971. The young family moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico where Jim was stationed as district engineer for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
They welcomed their second daughter, Katharine Anne, in 1975. From Puerto Rico, the family moved to Fairfax, VA so Jim could work at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. After serving 20 years in the military, he retired in 1978 and the family moved to Blowing Rock, NC. They were active at Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church where Jim served as an elder. He volunteered on several town council committees, and he and Barbara founded Stonehaven, a local real estate company. During this time, Jim also earned his General Contractor license.
The family moved down the mountain to Charlotte in 1985, where Jim worked for Associated General Contractors (AGC), and then they moved to Greensboro in 1989, where Jim worked for NC Monroe Construction. In Greensboro, he and Barbara were active at First Presbyterian Church; enjoyed local and touring productions of Broadway and other musicals, plays, and concerts; and spent many cooler weekends back up in Blowing Rock.
Throughout his adult life, Jim enjoyed driving sports cars and motorcycles, from a Porsche 911 in his bachelor days, to old roadsters and several touring motorcycles across the years. He also enjoyed the quieter side of life, hiking and walking the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A voracious reader, one of Jim’s greatest passions in life was found in the pages of a book. He could often be found reading in a comfortable chair, while sipping a good German beer with a handful of pretzels nearby.
Jim was intelligent and curious: He liked to keep his mind stimulated and engaged. He had a great laugh and relished a good conversation. He would dig deep into a topic and learn from discussion with others, sometimes with passion but always with respect. He was interested in business and industry trends, and he liked to read from multiple newspapers and magazines to glean more data.
The engineer in him was drawn to new technology and computers, whether it was an early Macintosh home computer, a Palm Pilot, or an iPhone. In later years, he appreciated the efficiency and frugality of driving hybrid cars.
Though he’d retired from the military more than four decades before his death, he carried the steadiness and discipline of a soldier throughout his life. He took daily walks and ate moderately (except for his favorite food: pasta!); he could likely fit into any active duty military uniform from the back of his closet. Jim was modest and humble; his most notable possessions were his cherished Citadel ring and wedding ring.
Jim was recognized throughout his life with both military and civilian accolades. He earned both the Army Legion of Merit award and the Army Bronze Star medal, and numerous civilian commendations for his volunteer and disaster work. But his desire to simply sit across a table for a meaningful exchange created the most lasting impressions on family and friends.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Barbara; his daughters Margaret (Jamie Lawrence and their son Gavin) and Kathy (Abe Rummage and their sons Brodie and Mack); his brother Richard (Mary Ann Scott); his sister Virginia (Rick Gross); and sister-in-law Anne McKenzie.
Jim’s family would like to extend their deep appreciation to the excellebt caregivers and support staff at Southminster Retirement Community and the marvelous team from hospice, who took great care of Jim and supported Barbara since Jim’s diagnosis a year ago.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Kenneth W. Poe Funeral and Cremation Service. Jim’s ashes will be interred during a private service with his immediate family at Woodlawn Cemetery in Blowing Rock, NC. The family will hold a celebration of Jim’s life in the coming months, when family and friends are able to safely travel and gather.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his name to The Citadel Foundation or Hospice and Palliative Care of the Charlotte Region. Consider sharing your favorite memories of Jim with his family at www.KennethPoeServices.com/obituaries.
The most important thing you can do to honor Jim’s life is to protect yourself and your loved ones, by having your annual PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test as long as you’re alive (or encouraging the men in your life to do so), in the hopes of preventing another family from the suffering of metastatic prostate cancer.