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James Richard Garver

James Richard Garver, age 59, of Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona and formerly of Middlebury, Lafayette, and LaGrange, Indiana, passed away Thursday, December 18, 2014 in his Phoenix home. He was preceded in death by his mother, Carolyn Targgart Garver Bickley, and his grandparents, Richard and Dorothy (Hodge) Targgart. Survivors include his wife, Loretta (Lorie Niemier) Garver, sister Deb (Bruce) Gulley, children Jessica Garver, Shane Garver, and Amanda (Ralphy) Garver Waugh; step-children Erin (Jeffery) Sparks Montgomery and Trevor Sparks; and grandchildren Arianna Waugh, Kiara Waugh, and Sloane Montgomery. He leaves behind many cousins, nieces, and nephews who adored their creative, irreverent, and fun-loving Uncle Jim.

Jim was born February 9, 1955 on the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, TX, and raised in Wolcottville, IN. Active for ten years in 4-H, he earned countless local, state and national awards and recognition, including the Honorary Kentucky Colonel designation. He loved music and theatre, playing lead roles in high school and college productions, majoring in Drama and Speech at Ball State University. He taught English and Drama at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne; taught Speech and Drama at Lakeland HS in LaGrange; became assistant principal, then principal, of Lakeland HS; and principal of William Henry Harrison HS in West Lafayette, IN. He received a Master’s degree in Education in 1979 from Indiana University, and a Doctorate in Education Administration in 2004, completing most coursework at Purdue University and obtaining the Ph.D. degree from Madison University, Gulfport, MS. His last position in Indiana was assistant superintendent at Middlebury Community Schools.

In 1999, Jim and Lorie moved to Arizona where he became director of curriculum and instruction in Alhambra Elementary School District, then associate superintendent of educational services at Deer Valley Unified School District from where he retired in 2005. For many years while still working in public education, he contributed to the professional development of teachers and administrators by presenting workshops and delivering keynotes filled with songs, stories, humor and powerful messages at national conferences through education companies National School Conference Institute, Learning 24/7, Teachscape, Solution Tree, and A+ Educators. He also taught education leadership courses as an adjunct professor for Northern Arizona University.

Jim was active in many education and community organizations, receiving honors throughout the years in Indiana and Arizona. Most notable were receiving an Educational Leadership grant through the Eli Lilly Foundation, being named an Andrews Fellow at Purdue University, being appointed by IN and AZ governors to state education committees, and serving on committees for state and national councils and associations for principals and superintendents. He was founder and director of the Land-of-Lakes Community Players in LaGrange, and appeared as a cast member in Civic Theatre productions in Lafayette. He remained a life-long member of numerous professional and civic organizations at the state and national level. In recent years, Jim had the pleasure of investing in Broadway productions, allowing him and Lorie to attend opening nights and cocktail parties with producers, directors, actors, and musicians, reveling in the up-close excitement of theatre in New York City. Jim was an avid follower of the Chicago Bears football team.

In 2006, Jim and close friend, John Antonetti of Little Rock, AR, started an education consulting partnership, Colleagues on Call. He traveled throughout the US and Canada, working with teachers, principals, and central office administrators to improve school leadership, higher achievement, and academic success for students and teachers. Jim self-published two books, 10 Secrets to Higher Student Achievement, and Coaching for Achievement: A Playbook for Teachers and Their Leaders. With business partner Antonetti, he co-authored Focus on Learning: A Process for Personal and Collaborative Reflection and numerous training products. In February 2015, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development will publish their co-authored book, 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong. Chosen as one of their annual premium selections, the book will be distributed to ASCD’s top-level members in the spring.

The family thanks Dr. John Holder, general practitioner; Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs, oncologist; and Cathy Payne, nurse practitioner for their fine medical care over the years, and Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix for the loving and tender support they provided to Jim, Lorie, and their many family members during his final days.

He will be cremated and his ashes spread in Sedona, a beautiful, spiritual place where he and Lorie purchased their retirement home in 2009 and spent many relaxing weeks together creating precious memories. A Celebration of Life will take place in the spring in LaGrange, IN. Donations in Jim’s name may be made to a memorial fund set up at St. Jude’s Children Hospital, continuing his life-long commitment to children.

Jim was an exceptionally smart, funny, and talented man who passionately loved life, his work, his family and friends. He will be greatly missed. For so many, life will not be the same without him.