James Davitt, Jr. 87 of Union, NJ passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 21,2020.
Known lovingly by many as PaPa Jim, he was born in Newark, NJ and went on to live an extraordinary life.
A private interment was held at Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth.
Mastapeter Funeral Home, 400 Faitoute Ave., Roselle Park handled the arrangements.
Directly after graduating Barringer High School in 1950, PaPa Jim enlisted in the U. S. Navy as a Seaman Recruit E-1. He served his country for 38 years, 3 years active duty in the Korean War, and 35 years in the Naval Reserve Intelligence unit. He proudly retired as a Captain 0-6 having earned numerous medals and commendations. He served as Executive officer of two Naval Reserve Intelligence Units, Commanding Officer of three Naval Reserve Intelligence Units, and Chief of Staff of the New York Area Intelligence program. However, he will always be remembered for driving a jeep right off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Luckily, he landed in a net, or the story would have ended there.
After returning home from the war PaPa Jim served as a police officer in the city of Newark while attending school. School was important to him as his children and grandchildren would agree. He was always excited to see their report cards and would reward them even if they only got A’s and B’s (which stood for awful and bad) because he told them he always got F’s and D’s (which stood for fine and dandy). Don’t believe him though, a man who earned an associate’s degree in engineering from Newark College of Engineering in 1957, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physical science from Montclair State College in 1960, a masters degree in science from NJIT in 1976, and then went on to earn 45 post graduate credits was certainly no slacker.
PaPa Jim enjoyed being an AP physics teacher for the Union County Regional School District for over 20 years. He looked so young when he started teaching, he was only charged the student price at lunch. He was really proud to be presented with The New Jersey Teacher of the Year Award in 1992 and invited to have lunch with the governor. He loved teaching physics. He would take 4 busloads of students to Great Adventure every year to study the physics of rollercoasters, and never lost a single kid. No one will ever forget the Bed of Nails lesson. He would lay on a board with nails sticking up while a second board full of nails was placed on top of him. Next a cement block was put on top, and students were given a sledgehammer to break the block. Thanks to the physics of “weight dispersion” he survived every time. He also LOVED doing the “egg drop” experiment from the school’s roof every year.
PaPa Jim never met a dessert he didn’t like, and a sale that wasn’t for him. He perfected the art of beating the system, and definitely was the inspiration for the show Extreme Couponing. He would often walk out of ShopRite with a cartful of groceries and a smile, leaving behind a very confused cashier wondering how the store ended up owing HIM money.
We often laughed at PaPa asking him why he needed SO MANY rolls of toilet paper and paper towels and Clorox wipes stockpiled in the basement, its not like the stores were going to run out. Guess he had the last laugh on us with that one!
PaPa Jim LOVED to tell stories. One of his favorites was from back in the day when he was cop on the beat in Newark and saw a beautiful nursing student named Cindy on the corner by City Hospital. She asked him for the keys to his 1953 Chevy Bel Air so she could take her friends to Dickie Dee’s for Italian hot dogs (they cost 25 cents). He told her only if she brought one back for him, so she did. It was love at first sight. They would go on to build a beautiful life and share 62-year marriage.
Papa had no reservations about telling you if you needed a shave or a haircut and was proud of the full head of hair he had. He attributed it to massaging his scalp daily and would brag that “most men his age were bald and looked pregnant.”
Papa Jim is survived by his loving wife Cynthia (Mirarchi) Davitt, his son James Davitt, III and wife Sarah, his daughter Andrea Freeman and husband Brian, his daughter Alicia Marino and husband Christopher.
He was the brother of the late Daniel Davitt. Surviving are George Davitt, Dennis Davitt, Robert McDonough, Debbie Parks, and Diane Frankenfield.
He left behind 7 grandsons he called “wisenheimers”, Michael, Christopher, Billy, Matthew, Nicholas, Ryan, and his birthday buddy Tyler. Those two shared a lot of Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties. He also left behind a granddaughter Nicole who he called the prettiest girl in school.
In addition, he is survived by 4 great grandchildren, Leah, Kylie, Julia, and Logan, many nieces and nephews and his goddaughter Kathryn Peters.
PaPa Jim often joked with his cardiologist that he had no heart. But nothing could be farther from the truth. He had the BIGGEST heart of all. He loved his family dearly, and was a great friend and neighbor to everyone he met. His last gig was President of the Sunday Coffee Club at Sunrise of Westfield where he would enjoy eating cinnamon raisin bagels and clip coupons from the newspaper.
The one thing PaPa Jim said more than anything else was “If anything ever happens to me, take good care of mommy.” Don’t worry PaPa, we will. Thank you for always taking such good care of us. WE LOVE YOU.
In lieu of flowers, please plan a time when the world goes back to normal and go with the ones you love to the Outback Steakhouse. Order some coconut shrimp with extra orange marmalade and a baked sweet potato. Get 2 glasses of ice water, and don’t forget the brown bread, the ends are the best part. You can be sure that PaPa Jim is sitting in the Outback Steakhouse in heaven right now doing the same exact thing.