Jimme Nell (McDonald) Cater

Jimme Nell (McDonald) Cater died July 16 after a long fight against a blood disorder. She was 87.

Jimme was born on April 6, 1930, in Bruce, Miss., to Hiram and Erma McDonald. At age 3, Jimme and her family moved to Blytheville, Ark., where her grandparents, “Mama” and “Papa” Allie and William Cain, had a 40-acre cotton, soybean and corn farm.

(At a different site, Jimme once picked the day’s record of 222 pounds of cotton, earning a whopping $5.55.) The flood of the Mississippi River in 1937 meant traveling by water to get around. Jimme’s dad took her and her sister in a rowboat down the roadside ditch, picking up two teachers who were boarding at a house across the street. They were the only students at school that day.

With no phones, communicating was a challenge. Jimme would hang a red skirt on the clothesline to let a friend – half a mile away – know that she could go out. Jimme was an active and popular student at Burdette High School, graduating in 1947 as the class valedictorian.

After attending business school in Memphis and while working at a wallpaper and paint store, Jimme met Charles “Chuck” Cater, who was based at Millington Naval Station. They married on Nov. 11, 1950.

The planned two children turned into five. Chuck’s promotions as an officer and his 31-year Navy career took them to Africa, Seattle, Long Island, Virginia Beach, Whidbey Island, Monterey and San Diego, before retirement in Fallbrook, Calif. Jimme calculated that she had moved 29 times since leaving home.

Since Chuck was away at sea a lot, Jimme raised the children largely on her own. Though she sometimes lamented playing “second fiddle” as a wife, she was the true leader and heart of the family – the one to give advice, share news and keep everyone connected. She remembered all birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc., even of obscure relatives and friends’ obscure relatives.

Many people were the beneficiaries of Jimme’s beautiful crochet work. She made countless doilies, afghans and sweaters and earned a 5,000-hour volunteer award from the Navy Relief Society for making more than 150 baby sweater sets for young Navy mothers.

In 2001, Jimme was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, polycythemia vera (too many red and white blood cells and platelets). Since 2013, she had had 33 blood transfusions before going on hospice in May. She also dealt with breast cancer; got the shingles shot but still got shingles; and suffered lingering effects of a painful bone-marrow biopsy.

Chuck developed lung cancer from asbestos exposure in the Navy and died in August 2016, nine months after their 65th wedding anniversary.

Jimme is survived by daughters Marian Cater, Karen Cater, Phyllis McClain and Sherry (Rich) Bodle, all of Washington, and son Chuck “Tom” (Alex) Cater, of San Diego; grandchildren Keith (Evelyn) Crabtree, Amy McClain, Ruby Heil, Kevin Bodle, Matt Bodle and Jake Cater; great-grandson Roman Heil; sisters Bobbe Tomlinson, Polly Pruitt and Johnnie (John) Taylor and brother Bill McDonald; and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Chuck; her sister Marian Barton and her grandson Neil Crabtree.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Miramar National Cemetery.

Donations may be made to Hospice of the Valley in Murrieta, Calif.

For her grave marker, Jimme once suggested: “She was a good waiter” (on and for others). “But she couldn’t wait no more!” a friend joked. But the marker will read: “loved by all who knew her.” Because she was. She will be deeply missed.

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