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Elk Grove Citizen

Pillar Jim Raleigh Remembered

Oct 12, 2022 12:00AM ● By Story by Susan Maxwell Skinner

Nancy Raleigh holds a portrait of the husband she lost. Jim Raleigh's retriever Sadie joins the family. Five Raleigh children are from left (clockwise): Erin, Megan, Katherine, Darren and Brian.

Pillar Jim Raleigh Remembered [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - A mass for Jim Raleigh will be held at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church this Sunday (October 16) at 4 pm.

Though funerals offer resolution, his family struggles with lives up-ended. “Jim was our family backbone and the pillar of our neighborhood,” explains his widow, Nancy. “It’s unthinkable he’s not here.”

On September 28, the pillar of Kenneth Avenue took a flashlight and stepped outside to confront a transient throwing rocks at his garage. The man grabbed Raleigh’s light and beat him with it. Raleigh (74) collapsed and died soon after. The attacker – a known meth-user with police history – was apprehended and charged with murder.

Outraged by the senseless crime, more than 400 Carmichaelites united at a meeting last week. Officials announced a desire to make the community safer; the gathering observed a moment of silence for a lost neighbor. To many, the tragedy seemed a catalyst for long-overdue action. To the Raleigh children – present but anonymous – optimism might have seemed a bitter pill.

Their mom this week faced a 52nd wedding anniversary without a husband. “Usually, we go out to dinner to celebrate,” says Nancy. “It’s shocking that Jim’s not here. It was his nature to protect his property and care for neighbors. Being involved – that’s how he lived his life.”

The plumber inherited caring ways from Irish parents who arrived at Ellis Island before WW II. Settling in Davis, CA, they produced sons John and Jim. After the mischievous twosome accidentally razed the family home, their parents found an acre in Carmichael. With olive groves and horse properties, Kenneth Avenue was – and still is – a slice of old Carmichael. Here began three generations of Raleigh family occupation.

Brothers John and Jim remained rambunctious handfuls. The younger’s fate was nevertheless sealed when he met Nancy Kenney at La Sierra High. “His parents wanted him to date an Irish Catholic,” recalls Nancy. “But Jim never gave up on me.”

Drafted after graduation, Army Transport Specialist Jim persuaded his girlfriend to join him in Germany. “He picked me up at Frankfurt airport in a deuce-and-a-half Army truck,” recalls Nancy. “He stuck a uniform cap on my head and drove us to Amsterdam. No one at the checkpoints was fooled. But they let us go. Jim could talk anyone around.”

The sweethearts married in the Frankfurt equivalent of City Hall. “The official didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak German,” Nancy smiles. “We just knew to say “Ja.”

Months later, their vows were renewed at OLA. “It was important for Jim to have a Catholic ceremony,” explains Nancy. “He and his family were very religious – I converted for them.” The teen newlyweds occupied a cottage on his parents’ lot and Jim took on a medley of jobs. San Juan School District employed him as a janitor; later as a gardener. “Jim turned his hand to anything to support us,” recalls his wife.

Their nursery filled. Erin, Megan, Katherine, Brian and Darren Raleigh were baptized and schooled at Our Lady of Assumption. Sunday Mass was a must-do. “It wasn’t easy wrangling five kids for church at 8 am,” notes son Darren. “We usually arrived late. The back row was always the Raleigh family pew.”

Jim’s plumbing apprenticeship led to a 30-year trade career, mostly served at State properties. At weekends, the workaholic did jobs for friends. “Jim was always fixing this, fixing that – helping people out,” approves Nancy. “If Jim said he’d do something – it was done. He contracted business on a handshake his whole life.”

“He was caregiver for his father; and for his brother John, who has Parkinson’s. Jim had no hobbies, he just liked looking after others. I’m amazed how many people tell me they’re devastated by his loss.”

Also grieving is Jim’s companion Sadie, a seven-year-old golden retriever. Master and pooch exercised twice-daily in Ancil Hoffman Park. “They’d head out at 5:30 am and walk three miles,” says Nancy. “Sadie knew the sound of Jim’s truck. Even now, her ears perk up when she hears a truck in our street.”

The Raleigh kids revered a dad who insisted all five get university educations – but took them on plumbing jobs so they understood his trade. “Dad was also my guide whenever I had to make an ethical choice,” says son Brian. “He had so much life experience to draw on.”

The plumber wielded tools until death. “He came to Portland (OR) three months ago and installed a sump pump in my crawl space,” says daughter Katherine. “I met dad at the airport and he had me drive straight to Home Depot. He worked non-stop for three days.”  

Last year, Jim flew to Spokane (WA) to help his eldest son dig out a septic tank. “He started work with the rise of the sun,” recalls Erin. “My brother and I wore out; he put us to shame. He kept digging like the energizer bunny.”

Daughter Megan remembers a font of practicality: “If we wanted help – with anything – we called dad. There was nothing he couldn’t do.”

What Jim Raleigh couldn’t do in fact, was quit. He worked, he cared and gave love. “He hugged so tight and so long, my kids called him ‘squeezy grandpa,’” says youngest daughter Katherine.

Says his wife: “Jim wasn’t just our family backbone. He’d give anyone the shirt off his back.  He loved this community. He said his roots were too deep to leave it. When he made up his mind, no one could change it. He always felt he could talk anyone around. This one time, it seems he couldn’t.

“I know God works in mysterious ways. We’re still trying to figure this one out. It makes no sense that everything we had was turned upside down – all in one night.”

Jim Raleigh’s assailant is in custody without bail, pending prosecution.

Our Lady of Assumption Church is located at 5057 Cottage Way, Carmichael.