James Wayne Sisemore
James Wayne Sisemore, 84, of Avon Park, died Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 in Sebring after a brief illness.
A longtime resident of Avon Park, Jim was born in Cool, Texas, on April 9, 1933, the youngest of 11 children. He married his wife of 65 years, Peggy Joyce Martin, in 1953. Together, they raised four children while living in many places around the country during Jim’s years of military service in the Air Force.
He is survived by Peggy; his four children, Donald (Nan) Sisemore, of Bradenton, Susan Roberts, of Avon Park, Dale (Laura) Sisemore of Denham Springs, Louisiana and David Sisemore of Tampa; as well as grandchildren Scott (Kelly) Dressel, Kellie Viera, Donny Sisemore, Chip Dressel, Jennifer (Michael) Suvances, Melinda (Mike) Pollitt, Joshua Carr, Brittany (William) Dillon, Dr. Shelley (Riley) Varnado, Katherine Sisemore and Ben Sisemore; and seven great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Benner and Willie Sisemore, his beloved mother- and father-in-law, Durrah and Dorothy Martin, and brothers-in-law Virgil Martin and Danny Butler.
Although he rarely spoke of it, Jim was a highly decorated combat veteran, serving as a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 in Texas and came to Avon Park as a sergeant in 1953. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1967 as a Captain. While in Vietnam, he served with the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bien Hoa, the 1st Air Cavalry in An Khe and the 5th Special Forces in DaNang.
He earned the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest military award, for his actions on Feb. 25, 1968 during the Tet Offensive. When a convoy he was escorting was ambushed, Jim made continuous strafing runs “at an extremely low altitude although a considerable volume of enemy automatic weapons fire was being directed at the aircraft each time,” according to the award citation.
After returning to base due to being dangerously low on fuel, he returned to the battle and “coordinated landing zones for incoming heliborne reaction forces and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters as well as continuing to make strafing runs. Two of these low-level strafing runs were over open rice paddies, enabling the friendly force to regain its momentum and forcing the enemy to break contact.”
Jim also earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses (the fourth-highest award) and five Air Medals for additional meritorious service in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in 1971 as a Major.
After his military service, Jim continued to work as a pilot for Ben Hill Griffin Inc., 4 Star Tomato Inc. and Central Florida Turf. He was also an avid supporter of Avon Park athletics, both while his children were stars for the Red Devils and after. He was looking forward to continuing the tradition with his great-grandsons, Maddox and Macoy Pollitt.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. at Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home with family receiving friends beginning at 9 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Good Shepherd Hospice Bud & Donna Somers Hospice House & Resource Center, 1110 Hammock Rd., Sebring, Florida 33870. Arrangements entrusted to Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home, Avon Park, Florida stephensonnelsonfh.com.