James Raymond Lytle
Courtesy photo

James Raymond Lytle – “Emerald Jim”

He had a wicked sense of humor, drier than the desert air. Yet he took life seriously and passionately.

Born in Chattanooga, Tenn, June 17, 1947, to Dinah and Ray Lytle, “Jimmy” was an Air Force brat who caught the travel bug in infancy. He recalled first grade in England. The family lived in several US cities, settling in Maryland when Col. Lytle (ret.) took a position at the Pentagon. The rarified setting of DC whetted Jim’s appetite for politics and journalism.

As a young man, he trekked around the country by thumb, meeting people from all walks of life. Lured to “See the World,” he enlisted in the Navy in 1965. He loved the sea, and saw the Philippines, Japan, and Hawaii, among other exotic places. But his service took him to Vietnam, a war he did not favor. He proved to be a hero when his ship, the USS Canberra, took enemy fire. Awarded a Bronze Star, the cost would be a lifetime of debilitating pain from back and neck injuries.

After his San Diego discharge in 1968, Jim explored California until he enrolled at Cañada College in the Bay Area, where he met Heidi Dwane in 1971. It was, he said, “Love at first sight.” They married May 26, 1972, and ventured all over the US, Canada, Mexico, and South America, until landing in Tucson in 1993. Their son, Travis, was born in 1995. Jim was a wonderful Daddy, teaching Travis music, reading, drawing, and math.

The workings of the human brain and of the cosmos intrigued him. He was invited into MENSA at age 12. As a teen, Jim led his Methodist Youth Fellowship group. He became a card-carrying minister of the Universal Life Church, and earned graduate degrees in psychology and gemology.

In Key West, as consultant to treasure diver Mel Fisher, he was dubbed “Emerald Jim.”

A truly kind man and preeminent teacher, Jim practiced family therapy at VA Medical Center. It gave him great joy to guide his clients.

Music was a huge part of his life. Largely self-taught, he was a superb guitar player.

Jim never doubted that he would start a 4th or 5th career in his 60s or 70s. But years of pain took a toll on his health, and Agent Orange exposure prevailed. About three years into battle with cancer, he succumbed to toxic effects of chemotherapy.

Along with Heidi and Travis, cats Bubba and Dinky also survive Jim. Monte, his feline soul mate of 18 years, met her dad at the Rainbow Bridge on January 21. Siblings George (Grant Chen), David, and Nancy reside in Florida. Sister-in-law Mary Schanno and nephew Raymond Lytle reside in Maryland.

Memorial service and reception will be held at Casas Adobes Congregational Church (UCC) at 4 pm, Saturday, Feb. 8.

Gifts to any of the following are welcome: Casas Adobes UCC, NRDC, Vail School District, or any public school science and music programs.

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