Mr. Jim Womack. That name rings a bell with hundreds, maybe even thousands of history students that passed through the halls of James River High School for the 28 years he taught there. And though he was a teacher at River, Womack graduated from Lord Botetourt. In the tradition of the 50th anniversary of the two high schools, here’s some good news and bad news about Mr. Womack. Right now he is battling cancer of the esophagus and asked the Botetourt View to tell his story to his Botetourt friends and former students at JRHS.
Jim Womack was born in Fincastle on Oct. 2, 1948. He graduated from Lord Botetourt High School in l967, and VA Tech in 1972. That’s when he began his life as a teacher at James River High School where he taught history for almost 28 years. Over the years he kept some of the “choicest” (ie funniest) errors and work that his students made in class and put them into a collection he called, “When Misquotes Bit You: History Comes Unraveled .” A great read that made both this reporter and her husband laugh out loud! He has written a more serious book called “From One Man’s Heart”. Both are available at amazon.com
He also has participated in maintenance at Botetourt County Public Schools in the Retirement Service Program. He even came to Botetourt last summer to work with the college students on the summer paint crew. He had made changes to his life that included a divorce and a move. For a while he played in a cover band. He wrote the books. He looked at his trek to become a long distance runner as a major positive change.
He had this to say about his lifestyle change to runner. “In 1991 I began a new lifestyle which included exercise and running. Too many years of living fast had caused me health problems. I chose running as both my children ran cross country and track at Lord Botetourt . I entered a 5K run in late 1991 and was hooked. Over the years I ran many races in the area. In 1997 I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Seeking a greater challenge, I began to run ultra marathons with my friend Steve Bowles. We ran in strange places like the Dolly Sods Wilderness in WV, the rocky trails of Brushy Mountain, and some beautiful vistas along the AT. During our running days we suffered through 10 degree temps in the Hellgate 100K, got lost on Afton Mountain, and hurricane force winds. ”
He reconnected with a long lost love and during the mid 2000′s made a real change!
Womack said, “In 2005, I married Harriet and moved to Northern Virginia. Even before I got settled in, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I lost my thyroid along with 40 lymph nodes, received 40 radiation treatments and something called Iodine 131. The surgery and radiation ended my running days although I could still walk a little and run a little to get some exercise.
In 2009, I decided to attempt to run a 50K event of my own making. I worked hard for two months at building a base. I invited my church to join my effort and use donations to purchase electronic drums for the praise band in which I do percussion. I finished my Grateful Heart race and met our goal as well.” Womack is very proud of his running accomplishments and his church work.
Unfortunately, the cancer came roaring back. This time in a different location. He told the Botetourt View, “Two months later, I was struck again by cancer. This time it presented itself as an inoperable tumor in the esophagus. I spent three weeks in the hospital. A trachiostomy bypassed the esophagus, but the damage to my vocal cords took my voice. Smell and taste went with it. Additional surgeries attempted to put feeding tubes in my stomach, but the failed. Presently I receive nutrition though an IV line. It takes 14 hours a day. I have completed one round of chemo therapy and begin another in April. After that only time will tell.”
Womack told the Botetourt View he appreciates cards and well wishes and they get him through otherwise difficult days. “I want to thank my prayer warriors at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church ( Troutville)and all over Botetourt. Your cards and letters have meant a lot during the dark days of the hospital and chemotherapy. I maintain a blogsite at www.jimsthornsandroses.com/ although I am not able to update it as much as I would like. If interested, my address is 13062 Galena Court, Gainesville, VA 20155.
If you recall Mr. Womack as many students of his do from the 70s, 80s and 90s, he would enjoy a card and the offer of a prayer.
50 years of high school education at JRHS and LBHS and many celebrations. Fondly remember the teachers at Lord Botetourt and James River who made an impact on the lives of teenagers across the county for three generations!