July 12, 1922 – Oct. 14, 2023
On Oct. 14, 2023, after 101 years of life, James Leroy (Jim) Bratton, left to explore the hunting and fishing grounds of heaven.
Jim was born in Gerber, California, to Martin Luther (Luke) Bratton and Ursel Cate Bratton. A sister joined the family three years later. Jim attended schools in Gerber and Weed, California, and Klamath Falls, Oregon, graduating from Klamath Union High School in 1940.
He attended Sacramento State for a brief time but returned to Klamath Falls to join the Navy. James honorably served on the U.S.S Franklin aircraft carrier in the South Pacific during World War II as an Aviation Machinist Mate First Class USN. He survived the Oct. 30, 1944, Kamikaze attack on the Franklin and flew combat missions as rear gunner.
Jim married Bernice Larson in Norman, Oklahoma, on Dec. 19, 1942. They were married 67 years before Bernice’s passing in 2010. Together they raised their three girls — Julie, Patty and Sally — in Klamath Falls where Jim worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad’s yard office. He hunted, fished and volunteered at the Suburban Fire Department where he was named Fireman of the Year.
He took his girls to baseball, basketball and football games, roller and ice skating, sledding and fishing. The family camped, went to Disneyland and San Francisco and visited their grandparents in Montana every other year. Jim taught the girls to drive and as a result he walked to work! He watched his girls graduate from Klamath Union High School, leave home for college and “walked them down the aisle.”
As empty nesters he and Bernice moved to San Jose as Jim accepted a job in the executive offices for the Southern Pacific railroad in San Francisco. During this time he commuted two hours a day, golfed courses including Pebble Beach, went to plays, enjoyed new friendships and cared for his ailing parents. They enjoyed traveling to visit their daughters and grandchildren. On one trip to Ashland Jim got a “hole in one” on the seventh hole at Oak Knoll Golf Course which was a golfing highlight for him.
In 1982, after 40 years of working for Southern Pacific railroad, he retired and he and Bernice hit the road. Their travels took them through much of the U.S., including two months in Alaska fishing with his sister and brother-in-law. They spent time in Hawaii and Australia as well as several cruises. Jim wrote letters to his daughters detailing each trip. Those letters are their treasured keepsakes.
In 1997 they moved to Ashland and enjoyed all Southern Oregon had to offer. They attended most of the Ashland High School sporting events, went to plays, took an Alaskan cruise, had a nice garden and went deer & elk hunting. Another highlight for Jim was attending the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., for WWII veterans. Jim was lost when Bernice passed in 2010, but eventually started building a new life for himself. He joined a group for daily coffee, went to Food & Friends events, attended the First Baptist church and golfed into his 90s. He found a new friend, Irene Gorham, and she accompanied him to church, sporting events and family gatherings.
As he aged, Jim needed some help at home and Marlys Ramirez became his in-home caretaker until he sold his home and moved into the Rogue Valley Manor at age 95. He loved the Manor’s independent living environment, new friends and activities. The pandemic took its toll and the isolation was difficult causing him to need more assistance. He moved into the Care Suites assisted living section where he once again thrived. A special thanks to the Care Suites staff who were dear friends and helped make each day special for him. Thank you to Asante Hospice for seeing that his last days were painless and filled with love. Thanks to the Veterans Administration for all the years of helpful benefits, including glasses, hearing aids and a motorized scooter.
Jim loved parties and had birthday parties at 90, 95, 100 and 101, celebrating his life with many friends, neighbors and dearly loved nieces and nephews. Jim felt blessed with his life thanks to his family, friends, caretakers and all who showed him love and respect.
Jim is survived by his three daughters: Julie (Troy) Reynolds, Talent, Oregon; Patricia McMahon, Bend, Oregon, Sally (Sandor) Vincze, Reno, Nevada; grandchildren, Teresa Reynolds, Jim (Cathy) Reynolds, Craig (Suzanne) Vincze, Christy (RC) Crocitto, Cara Mortensen, Rachel (Andrew) Price; great-grandchildren, Kelsey (Colton) Gow, Kassandra (Cody) McHargue, James (Julia) Crocitto, Abriana Crocitto, Benjamin Vincze, Fletcher Price, Boden Price, Jett Mortenson; great-great grandchildren, Eva & Pacen Gow, Easton & Bryar McHargue, and baby boy Crocitto arriving soon.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, a sister Lorraine, and 23-year-old great-grandson Max Vincze.
Jim left a note that read “celebrate my life. I have had a great one and thanks to my family.”
A special military ceremony is being planned by the family at a later date. The ceremony will take place at the Eagle Point Veterans Cemetery, date to be announced soon.
Memorial contributions are suggested to: The Max Vincze Foundation for young adult cancer research at maxvfound.org (mail to 4800 Turning Leaf Way, Reno, NV 89519); or Asante Hospice; or a worthy cause of your choice.
Arrangements in care of Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home, Ashland, Oregon (litwillersimonsen.com).
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