James Cecil Nations passed away on February 7, 2021, in Jackson of complications from COVID-19, living a long life, full of laughter, committed to his family, and as a proud Mississippi boy for all of his 94 years.
“Cecil” was born with a twinkle in his eye, on September 15, 1926, in Vaiden, MS, the middle child of five boys, to Robert Luther Nations and Lettie Elizabeth Chesteen Nations.
Enlisting in the United States Army in January of 1945, Sergeant Nations served honorably in both WWII and the Korean War as a rifle sharpshooter and earning Overseas Services Bars and other medals of distinction.
After the military, Cecil went to Mississippi College, graduating with a degree in Accounting, courtesy of the new GI Bill, an alma mater that eventually also granted degrees to his own daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons. During his time on the Clinton campus, he built several university buildings through their work study program, places of learning that still stand today.
Cecil married Ava “Nell” Nations in 1949, after being introduced to her by his big brother, William, and in 1955, they had one daughter, Diane Cecile Nations, who remained his greatest joy, adventure partner, and caretaker.
Cecil and Nell lived in Gulfport from 1955 to 1991. For 34 years, he worked as an auditor for the Mississippi State Tax Commission. He also loved weekends working on his farm near Saucier and together they built nature trails and grew blueberries.
In 1998, upon retirement from state government, he and Nell moved to Forest, where his now grown daughter and son-in-law had built a dental practice and were raising his adventurous three grandsons. Upon the birth of their grandsons, Cecil and Nell were forever cemented as “PawPaw” and “MawMaw” by all little ones, the rest of their lives.
In Forest, he remained an active member of the community, attending City Council meetings, and participating in the local VFW and American Legion. He was also a proud member of the Lions club for 50 years, having perfect attendance for over 20 of those years. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Lions Club member in the state of Mississippi.
Cecil was an accomplished traveler, visiting every state in the nation and many of the national parks. He drove twice from Mississippi to Alaska, taking several months to enjoy this trek. His favorite place was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where he took Nell on their honeymoon, stopping first to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He never forgot that trip and could still hear the lyrics from their favorite song that night. They returned together biannually, hiking every trail in the park.
In 2013, Cecil was honored to fly with other Mississippi veterans to Washington DC on an “Honor Flight,” honoring great veterans who had served and sacrificed for our country. However, when the proud vets reached the World War II memorial, it had been closed with yellow tape and “Do Not Enter” signs, due to the federal government shutdown. Not to be dissuaded, and with that ever-present twinkle in his eye, the five foot, six inch, Cecil stormed the barricades with Congresswoman Michele Bachman (R-Minn) and once again landed safely, with a smile.
Cecil is preceded in death by his parents, his two older brothers, Robert Nations and William Nations, and his youngest brother, Neal Nations, as well as his beloved wife, Nell. Nell’s memory was never far from Cecil’s thoughts and ever-present in his heart after she passed unexpectedly in 2004.
Cecil is survived by his younger brother, Kermit Nations of Amory; and his devoted daughter, Diane “Di” Nations Smith and son-in-law, Dr. John B. “Doc” Smith, of Madison; his three grandsons, Dr. Tyler Nations Smith (Ellie), of Missoula, MT, Dr. Thomas Bennett Smith (Courtney) of Oxford, and Dr. Jeston “Taylor” Smith (Haley) of Southaven; and his seven great-grandchildren, whom he called his “greats,” Elliot (16), Evan (12), Tripp, (11), Jackson (7), Gunner (7), Axel (5), and Remi (1). Each one of them was his “little buddy.” His grandsons loved tinkering in their PawPaw’s workshop and grew up knowing that he never missed their sporting events.
Cecil was a loving and happy Mississippi man. He would have wanted you to enjoy the little things in life, travel to a flea market to collect a trinket you enjoy, pay attention to your local city government, don’t be afraid to have a glass of red wine and watch a Western at the end of the day, and most of all, Cecil would have wanted you to enjoy the beauty of this nation’s great outdoors, with your family, and remember that the obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they are the path.
A graveside service was held for the family at Parkway Cemetery in Kosciusko. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Forest Lions Club C/O John Roby, 614 N. Woodland Dr., Forest, MS 39074