James Jim Fonteno
(1926 - 2008)

Profile:
James Jim Fonteno

Birth:
Tx, United States of America
July 2, 1926

Passing:
Texas, United States of America
June 30, 2008


Memorial
JAMES 'JIM' WALTON FONTENO

Well known and well respected, known by many as the 'Peacemaker' and 'The Dean', Jim was born July 2, 1926 in Port Arthur, TX as one of the 6 children of Walton and Lula Mae Fontenot.
{http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Walton_Fonteno}

Jim is survived by his wife Joann Fonteno and his 7 children.

At an early age Jim joined the merchant Marines and later joined the Army, receiving an Honorable Discharge.

In the late 1950's Jim continued to serve the people, as a Municipal Court Judge in Baytown for several years before moving to Houston in the early 60’s. There he became a real estate consultant and an independent fee appraiser for Harris County.

In 1970 Jim was appointed a Commissioner for the Houston Ship Channel (Houston Port Authority). He served as Commissioner until he resigned to run for Harris County Commissioner in 1974.

In 1974 Jim was elected as a Harris County Commissioner (Pct 2) where he served a noteworthy service to the people for 28 years, until he retired in 2002. His retirement party was so large - it had to be held on the floor of the Astrodone where 1,000's attended.

Jim's service to the people moved many individuals and elected officials to recognize his dedication and service, including:

JIM FONTENO COURTHOUSE: After leaving office Harris County Officials renamed the Harris County Courthouse on Wallisville Road, which includes offices for the Tax Assessor, County Commissioner, Sheriff and other County Officials - “The Jim Fonteno Courthouse.

JIM & JOANN FONTENO FAMILY PARK: A family park for all people which includes baseball fields, soccer fields and other sports areas and picnic grounds.

THE JIM AND JOANN FONTENO SENIOR EDUCATION CENTER: Jim worked hard for the Seniors in all of Harris County, not just in the area where he served. This center is not even in the Precint and the naming of a new Senior Education Building in Harris County Precinct 3, “The Jim and JoAnn Senior Education Center.” He was also honored by members of the United States Congress in renaming the main U.S. Post Office in Pasadena, “The Jim Fonteno Post Office.”

He is well remembered for starting the first Harris County Senior Citizens program in 1975, which included an educational and recreational bus program as well as an after school program for at risk children, both of which are still thriving today. In addition, he instituted having an opening prayer at every Commissioners Court session. Also during this time he served as an auctioneer for many charitable fundraisers. One time he was flown by helicopter from one FFA auction in Sheldon to another FFA auction in LaPorte to get both done on the same day. It is estimated he raised over four million dollars for local charities in Harris County.

Jim was a member of Holy Trinity United Methodist Church in Northshore for almost thirty-five years. He served on many committees at Holy Trinity and several Methodist District Committees.

Jim is survived by his loving wife of almost thirty-five years, JoAnn; their children, James Fonteno Jr. and wife Claire, Jann Morton, Sharon Hamlin and husband Danny, David Proctor and wife Cindy, Donna Kester and husband David, Diana Saufley and husband Vic, all of Houston; and Chase Fonteno of Dallas; their grandchildren, Michael Hamlin and wife Jennifer, Nathan Hamlin, Holly Hamlin, Christopher Proctor, Joshua Proctor, David Alan Kester, Andrew Kester, Amy Kester, Jared Saufley and Benjamin Saufley, all of Houston; his brothers, Bobby and wife Rose Ann of Port Arthur, Donald Joe and wife Janita of Lake Charles, LA; and Kermit and wife Ouida of Red Oak, TX; his sisters, Gladys Walsh of Richardson, TX; and Louise Schenkewitz of Port Arthur; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents; his sisters, Manon “Blue” McFarland, and Margaret Bell and his brother Jay Maxey.

Pallbearers will be Joe Dow, Paul Greene, Henry Jackson, Judge Mike Parrott, Judge Steve Phelps and Paul Virgadamo.

Funeral services were held at 11:00 a.m, Monday, July 7, 2008 at Second Baptist Church of Houston - North Campus, 22770 Highway 59N, Kingwood, Texas. Jim is buried at Rosewood Cemetary, 2602 South Houston Ave @ Rankin Road, Humble, Texas.

Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

Hover your mouse over the wall images to see each guest book entry.

Guest Book (3 entries)
General Historical News on James 'Jim' Fonteno (almost 200 links)
http://www.hcnonline.com/shared-content/search/index.php?search=go&o=0&q=jim+fonteno&d1=07-13-2000&d2=07-27-2008&s=relevance&r=Subject%2CAuthor%2CContent&l=20

Harris County Remembers
http://web.archive.org/web/20020924181920/http://harriscounty.org/

Harris County, PCT 2 Website from Dec, 2001
http://web.archive.org/web/20011202224315/http://www.harriscounty.org/

The President Signs House Bill H.R. 4717 designating the Jim Fonteno US Post Office. (10/2002)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021030-10.html

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ268.107.pdf

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/107/house/2/votes/235/

Fonteno Honored as Living Legacy (6/14/07)
http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2007/06/21/import/20070621-archive119.txt

Fonteno Retirement Tribute - 4,000 in the Astrodome (11/12/02)
http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2002/11/20/import/20021120-archive121.txt

Historical Web Archives & News (Archives)
October 11th, 2009
HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARCHIVES
Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Tue 07/08/2008
Section: B
Page: 3
Edition: 3 STAR R.O.

Hundreds honor Fonteno / Mourners recall his long service to constituents, devotion to family

By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON
STAFF

Former Harris County Commissioner Jim Fonteno was remembered Monday as a devoted family man and caring public servant who changed the lives of generations of children and senior citizens.

Fonteno, who represented Precinct 2 for 28 years before advancing Parkinson's disease forced him to retire, died last week of complications from the disorder. He was 81.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Second Baptist Church's North Campus in Kingwood to honor Fonteno's legacy and pay their respects to his widow, JoAnn, their children and families. Dozens of huge flower arrangements lined the altar on either side of Fonteno's casket, which was watched over by two members of the Harris County Sheriff's Office honor guard.

Among the elected officials in attendance were all current members of Commissioners Court, former county judges Robert Eckels and Jon Lindsay, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown.

The Rev. Dr. T. Mac Hood, who presided over the service and offered the eulogy, recalled a visit to Fonteno's office that was interrupted by a phone call from a constituent irate about a pothole outside his home. When the conversation ended, Hood recalled, Fonteno turned to the minister and said: "You know, I'd be upset, too."

"He took your pain and the community's pain and took it upon himself," the pastor told the audience.

Served seven terms

Born and raised in Port Arthur, Fonteno served as a municipal court judge in Baytown before moving to Houston in the early 1960s.

He served four years as a port commissioner before being elected to Commissioners Court. When Fonteno joined the court, the Democrat said he planned to serve two terms, three at best. He ended up serving seven terms before retiring in 2002.

As commissioner, Fonteno launched the county's first senior citizens program. He raised private funds to buy a bus for seniors, and by the time he retired had built a fleet of 22 buses to ferry seniors to places such as Moody Gardens and Minute Maid Park.

..Lives were changed'

Similar programs were instituted in the other three precincts and all continue to thrive. Precinct 2's program now reaches more than 50,000 elderly residents, said Fonteno's successor, Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.

Fonteno also created an after-school program for at-risk children and instituted the practice of opening each Commissioners Court hearing with a prayer.

"Lives were changed because he was doing more than was required as a county commissioner," Eckels said after the service.

Busloads of senior citizens attended the service, including Crosby resident Mary Martin. She said she will always be grateful for Fonteno's work on behalf of the elderly, especially at the Riley Chambers/Barrett Station Community Centers, where she is an advisory board member.

"We appreciate what he did for us," said Martin, 79, as she grabbed a few extra programs for friends who could not attend the funeral.


Copyright notice: All materials in this archive are copyrighted by Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P., or its news and feature syndicates and wire services. No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to Internet and intranet distribution channels, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed in any medium. Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.
Houston Chronicle - "Hundreds Honor/Mourn Fonteno Passing" (News Story - Funeral)
October 11th, 2009
HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARCHIVES
Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Tue 07/01/2008
Section: B
Page: 1 Metfront
Edition: 3 STAR R.O.

1926 JIM FONTENO 2008 / 'Integrity' defines former commissioner

By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON, DAVID ELLISON
Staff

Former Harris County Commissioner Jim Fonteno, whose 28-year tenure was defined by a commitment to statesmanship and a passion for creating services to enrich the lives of senior citizens, has died. He was 81.

Fonteno died of complications from Parkinson's disease on Monday evening, two days shy of his 82nd birthday, said his son, Jim Fonteno Jr.

Level-headed and unassuming, Fonteno mediated often-intense battles on the Commissioners Court while making sure his Precinct 2 constituents were never shortchanged. He launched the county's first senior citizen program and helped expand the offerings to the three other precincts.

"He was a tremendous commissioner," Commissioner Jerry Eversole said. "The integrity and honesty and the straightforwardness of the man was unparalleled. If he told you he was going to do something, you could just rest assured that's the way it was going to happen."

Born and raised in Port Arthur, Fonteno moved to Baytown in the early 1950s in search of better opportunities as a commercial real estate developer. He moved to Houston in 1963 and relocated to the city's east side after marrying his second wife, JoAnn.

After serving four years as a port commissioner, Fonteno stepped down to run for Commissioners Court because he wanted to improve people's lives, his son said. When elected, the Democrat said he planned to serve two terms, three at best. He ended up serving seven terms before his illness forced him to retire in 2002.

City of Houston Controller Sylvia Garcia was elected to fill Fonteno's position. Commissioner El Franco Lee credited Fonteno with working hard for more than a decade to make sure the seat could be won by a Hispanic politician. Each time precinct lines were redrawn, he would see to it that more Hispanics were included in his territory, Lee said.

Redistricting was the only time former County Judge Robert Eckels ever saw him cast a partisan vote.

"And I'm not even sure that was partisan," Eckels said. "To him, it was about getting good people."

Fonteno raised private funds to buy the county's first bus for seniors, an old, un-air-conditioned school bus with a paint job that prompted the participants to nickname it the "Blue Goose." By the time he retired, 22 buses were ferrying seniors to places such as Moody Gardens and Minute Maid Park.

When Commissioner Steve Radack opened a senior education center shortly after Fonteno's retirement, he named it after the former commissioner and his wife, in honor of his dedication to improving the quality of elderly residents' lives.

"If every county commissioner in this country did what Commissioner Fonteno did for the seniors, AARP ... certainly would be out of business," Garcia said.

Former Harris County Judge Jon Lindsay, who was elected to Commissioners Court in 1974, the same year Fonteno won his seat, said Fonteno was one of his heroes. Fonteno often mediated arguments between Lindsay and the late Commissioner Bob Eckels, Robert Eckels' father, earning a reputation as a peacemaker on the fractious court.

"He was laid-back," Lindsay said. "He never got excited about anything. When (Eckels) and I got into a dispute, which we always did, he would be the conciliator between the two of us. So I guess you might say he was just a liberal-headed, kind of laid-back guy that didn't try to get out in front all the time."

In addition to his son and wife, Fonteno is survived by two daughters, four stepchildren and 10 grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at Rosewood Funeral Home in Humble from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Second Baptist Church in Humble.


Copyright notice: All materials in this archive are copyrighted by Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P., or its news and feature syndicates and wire services. No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to Internet and intranet distribution channels, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed in any medium. Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.
Houston Chronicle - 'Integrity' Defines Commissioner Fonte (News Story - Death)
October 11th, 2009
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"I am a friend of Mr Fonteno's son, Chase Fonteno. I met Mr Fonteno a few times and was always awestruck by how genuine he was. He always came across to me as friendly, a good leader and great father. It is sad so few people possess those qualities."
William Payne
June 9th, 2011
"I love you grandad , you are an inspiration to us all and now I,am going to be an Order of the Arrow member , you're among many of the reasons of this . love you grandad Jared"
Jared Saufley
March 27th, 2011
"I dedicate this a great father. He guided me in the direction of a good and honest life. Chase"
Chase Fonteno
October 11th, 2009

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