Jim Sadler is celebrating his 90th birthday (April 24) and he knows just about everybody in Chattanooga. Mr. Sadler has worked in the funeral home business for over 50 years conducting thousands of funerals. He was raised in North Chattanooga on E. Manning Street and graduated from Central High School in 1949.
Jim always has a story to tell. He remembers when President Franklin Roosevelt came to Chattanooga for the Chickamauga Dam dedication. Mr. Sadler was present at the train station and saw the President arrive. He answered his country’s call in 1949 and joined the Navy, serving in the Korean War. Mr. Sadler was in basic training when General Douglas MacArthur came to Chicago and there was a big parade. He said he was glad to stand at attention when the famous general passed by.
Jim said he accepted Christ as his Savior at a young age. Most of his life he belonged to the North Chattanooga Church of God. Sadler said when he returned home and went back to church he noticed this cute brunette in the choir and a friend told him she wasn’t married. As they say the rest is history and after dating eight months he married Peggy Jo Merrill. She was from Florida but grew up in Beersheba Springs, Tn. Rev. Bill Brown performed the ceremony at the church where Jim raised his family and attended most of his life. After 67 years of marriage Peggy recently passed away.
Jim worked at the Chattanooga DuPont plant in the textile division for 33 years. Also, he moonlighted at the M and J Supermarket on Ashland Terrace. One of his customers was Bob Coulter, operator of Coulter Funeral Home just up the street. Mr. Sadler said Mr. Coulter would talk to him every time he was in the store. Mr. Coulter told him one day, “Son, I’m impressed with the way you handle people, why don’t you come to work for me.” Mr. Sadler said, “I wasn’t every excited about going to work for a funeral home but I’d tried everything else so why not.”
In 2002 Jim Sadler moved to Chattanooga Funeral Home to work for his longtime friend Gene Pike. “Jim is one of the most trusted and loyal employees I’ve had in all my years at the funeral home,” noted Mr. Pike.
Mr. Sadler and his wife Peggy had four children - two daughters and two sons who were twins. He said one of the twins died at 16 months old. Mr. Sadler said at the time he didn’t realize it but God was preparing him to help those grieving through their sorrow.
Mr. Sadler’s co–workers say he must wake up every morning looking forward to come to work. Tom Tallent, North Chapel manager, said, “It’s a blessing to work with Jim and have him as a friend." Mr. Tallent said Mr. Sadler "wants to be here every day."
Mr. Sadler has always found time for his community. You might find him painting a widow friend’s house or helping a neighbor get their car started. He’s a life member of the VFW, and a member of the Kiwanis Club and Lions Club where he’s proudly sold thousands of pecans at Christmas. Mr. Sadler was given the “Quilt of Valor” from the Chattanooga Chapter Freedoms Foundation. He said he looks forward to driving a limousine of dignitaries in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade. Mr. Sadler said he’s loved all his pastors but the late Rev. Marshall Roberson was very special to him. Jim drove the North Chattanooga Church of God bus for over 20 years. Jim is known for his sense of humor. He said while working a service years ago he shook a good friend’s hand. The friend responded, “You didn’t check my pulse.”
Jim recently toured the Medal of Honor Museum with his daughter Cynthia Sadler Reynolds. She said her father was very impressed with the Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss displays. The Navy seaman saw Coolidge and Doss while driving limos in the annual parade. During the museum tour, he told his daughter while in high school he’d bagged groceries for members of the Coolidge family working at North Chattanooga Supermarket. Mrs. Reynolds said her dad is a very patriotic person and felt it was his duty to serve in the armed services. She said her dad has lots of stories about his time at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Mrs. Reynolds said her father is the hardest working man she’s ever known and he taught that work ethic to his children.
Mr. Sadler remembers City Court Judge Russell Bean coming by the funeral home one time and asking for him. The secretary said Jim is out. Judge Bean said, I’ve got a warrant for his arrest.” The lady was stunned and Judge Bean had to let her know it was only a joke. Mr. Sadler said he looks forward to going to his wife’s home place for the annual reunion although this year won’t be the same as Peggy will be missing.
When Mr. Sadler was asked who is the most famous person he’s buried, Jim responded, “They are all famous.”