James "Jim" Phillip Zerface passed away, or "kicked the bucket" as he would have said, peacefully surrounded by family on October 23rd at the age of 81. Jim was one-of-a-kind: tremendously intelligent, creative, insightful and loving - with an irreverent sense of humor that could make even the most stoic of men break down in laughter. And we don't mean chuckles, we mean guttural, "you can't breathe" hysterics. Jim also had a mischievous streak that went hand-in-hand with his humor, keeping all around him on their toes. He was one heck of a good time, but above all else - Jim was a devoted husband, a loving father and a loyal friend.
Jim was born in Tampa, Florida but was raised in the small town of Monticello, Indiana. He was a Hoosier through-and-through: with an avid love of basketball that followed him throughout his life. In addition to being the class valedictorian at Monticello Roosevelt High School, he was also a star player on the school basketball team. This athletic stardom continued with his college team at DePauw University, where Jim was ultimately inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame for his basketball achievements.
Jim earned a BA in Psychology at DePauw in 1962. He went on to Indiana University, where he earned a Masters in Educational Psychology and a Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology. After landing in Nashville in 1973 to pursue his love of song-writing, Jim served as the Director of Pupil Personnel Services for Metro Nashville Public Schools for 27 years. As administrator of the school system’s guidance and counseling division, Jim was a career-long advocate of childhood mental health in the city.
Jim also had a successful song-writing career, writing songs alongside his brother, Bill, and friend, Bob Morrison. He had songs recorded by major artists such as Reba McEntire, Jerry Lee Lewis, Perry Como, Roy Clark, George Burns, Tanya Tucker and The Kendalls - with several top Billboard hits in the mix.
In addition to these achievements, Jim spent his years coaching his children's sports teams, playing his guitar, running laps at Lipscomb track (where he jokingly referred to himself as "The Flash"), watching his beloved sports teams on TV (where an expletive or two were known to slip out), bewildering people with his "unique" food concoctions (we're talking orange juice in his cereal), enjoying trips to the beach - and spending time laughing with family and friends.
Jim is survived by his wife, Wendy Lawrence Zerface, and his three children: Cris Zerface (Susan), Janie Zerface (Jason Robbin) and Kazzie Zerface (Ted Crockin). He is also survived by two grandchildren: Winsley Crockin and Samantha Crockin. Additionally, he is survived by two stepchildren: Lellyett Wentworth (Bert Koch) and Amanda Wentworth (Tom Gannon) - and a step-grandchild, Risley Gannon. He is also survived by the mother of his children, Tad Lisella (Richard), along with his four nieces and nephews: Lori Stapleton (Phil), Terri Jo Beatty (Kevin), Brandon Zerface (Sarah) and Bob Zerface. He was preceded in death by his parents, Maurice and Myrtle Zerface, his brother, Bill Zerface, his nephew, Mike Zerface, and his niece, Juli Wright.
No services will be held at this time, as true to spirit: Jim always preferred a party over a funeral. In lieu of any gifts or flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer's Association.
Jim was a true treasure to all who knew him and will be dearly missed - but his legacy, love and the smiles he brought to all will continue to live on.
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