James Ronald Lovell

by Lynn McMillen
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James Ronald Lovell, the first born of three children and only son of Lola Nell Jennings and Leon Anderson Lovell, both of whom preceded him in death, was born in Nashville, Tennessee May 30, 1950 and passed peacefully on June 28, 2024 with family at his side.

In his early childhood, Ron grew up with his family in the home of his paternal grandparents, Louisa M. Crouch and Jadie Johns Lovell, on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. At the age of six the family relocated to nearly Nebraska Avenue in the Sylvan Park neighborhood. Ron graduated from Sylvan Park Elementary School on June 1, 1962, and lived there until his senior year in high school. He spent part of his summers in Rives, Tennessee at the home of his maternal grandparents Daisy Belle and James Otho Jennings where he would play and help his “Pappaw” with his large vegetable garden, being paid to pick tomato horn worms off tomatoes. Though he would later comment to his wife Karen when she started gardening, “That’s your hobby,” he greatly enjoyed the fresh organic produce she grew, especially the tomatoes. During his summers in Rives, Ron developed a love of reading, being particularly influenced by his cousin, Sandy Conatser.

Although the family moved to Charlotte Park two and a half years after the birth of his younger sister, Susan, Ron spent his senior year at Corrine L. Cohn High School, graduating June 6, 1968, the same high school from which his father had graduated. While at Cohn Ron developed a love of tennis. After a year of playing for the football team, he joined the tennis team, becoming one of its most valuable players. He held summer jobs at the local tennis center, then located on Nashville’s 25th Avenue. His love of the sport continued much of his life as he played on the company tennis ladder while employed at Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg, Virginia.

At the age of 15, Ron met his future wife, Karen McCullough, on a date at a Cavert Junior High Christmas dance that Karen’s friend and Ron’s cousin, Linda Irvin, arranged. It was almost love at first sight. He introduced Karen to an extensive world of music with his collection of albums spanning decades. Together they attended concerts and smaller, more intimate music venues. When Ron left Nashville in 1968 following his high school graduation to attend college at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee, Karen followed, joining him the following year. The two were married September 9, 1972, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville and created quite a stir amongst Karen’s family when the two decided to write their own vows.

Ron was a lifelong lover of nature and avid outdoorsman. His father and uncles were themselves avid fishermen, enjoyed duck hunting and camping. Both parents were accomplished in archery and taught Ron the sport. Each year, his mother, her two sisters, and their families would camp at Willow Grove on Dale Hollow Lake and share many memorable times. While attending Tennessee Tech, friends would get together to picnic, hike or camp throughout the state, enjoying Tennessee’s many waterfalls, hiking trails, caves, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Throughout his youth, Ron was also an avid spelunker. While living in Virginia, he spent many weekends hiking the Appalachian Trail or bicycle riding through Virginia’s beautiful countryside. He also enjoyed walks along Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek trail. Even later in life on walks through his neighborhood in Huntsville, Alabama, he would point out his favorite trees – the winged elm, Kentucky Coffee tree, persimmon, serviceberry, cypress and many others. He enjoyed walking the Green Mountain Nature Trail, Aldridge Creek Greenway and Land Trust trails as well as visiting the Huntsville Botanical Garden and Nashville’s Cheekwood Garden. He was particularly pleased to see conservation for the enjoyment of nature by the Land Trust of North Alabama. In his final year of life, Ron participated in tree plantings with his son, James, at events led by the Huntsville City Green Team.

At Tennessee Tech, Ron majored in Engineering Science. While he maintained excellent grades in many subjects, he was especially loved by his English composition and literature teachers at a time when it was uncommon for engineering students to excel in English. Ron was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society as well as Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Kappa Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor societies, but his primary extracurricular focus was being a member of Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity in which he served as its first vice president. During this time, he also participated in the Army ROTC program. He graduated magna cum laude with his B.S. degree, and his professors elected him to Who’s Who. Because Karen was a year behind him, he delayed graduation to obtain a minor in philosophy, something that added to his love of reading. Additionally, he wrote poetry and played guitar.

Following graduation, he was accepted into the Nuclear Engineering Masters Program at the University of Virginia and worked for Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg as a co-op student. During this time, he completed the Engineer Officer’s Basic Training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. With the ending of the Vietnam War in 1973, he was honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers. In December 1974 he obtained his Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering and accepted a position in safety analysis at Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg, Virginia where he and Karen lived for the next twelve years. After working for five years, he took the Professional Engineering exam and became a Licensed Professional Engineer. His position took him to site planning meetings in Germany numerous times, and he worked tirelessly during the Three Mile Island disaster. Over time, his position required more training in computing which allowed Ron to transition into a new career.

Ron was hired in 1984 by supercomputer company, Cray Research, Inc. and trained initially at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex in Tullahoma, TN and at Cray headquarters in Chippewa Falls, MN. He chose to reside in Huntsville, Alabama, working as a senior systems analyst and was chosen to oversee software development at various sites such as the Alabama Supercomputer Center and NASA. He eventually settled in a position at the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Simulation Center on Redstone Arsenal. As the contracts changed at the SIM center, Ron would move to other companies to continue working. Among the companies he worked for were Silicon Graphics, Inc., Madison Research, Kratos, and others with the Geeks and Nerds (GaN) Corporation being his final company before retiring in June 2016.

In retirement, Ron enjoyed playing disc golf, walking, reading, listening to music, watching movies and PBS, eating out, enjoying being with family as well as continuing to work on the computer with contributions to Debian and several other Linnux distributions until he was too ill to do so.

While Ron was not one who participated in any form of organized religion, his life was testament to following the edict of the Dalai Lama, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” To those who knew Ron, he was a kind, gentle, humble and compassionate soul as well as a loving devoted father.

Ron is survived by his wife, Karen; son, Christopher and wife, Leslie; son, James;

sisters, Julianne and Susan, and numerous cousins.

The family is grateful to Hospice Family Care who lovingly allowed Ron to transition peacefully from this world, as well as the many medical personnel of Clearview Cancer Institute who cared for Ron in his treatment for Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) then Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and the staff in the Oncology department at Huntsville Hospital.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 pm on Friday, October 18 at the Monte Sano State Park Lodge.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Ron’s memory to the Land Trust of North Alabama.

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