Funeral services for James Lester Hall, 85, of Benoit will be at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, February 11 at Boone Funeral Home, Greenville. He died Wednesday, February 8 at Legacy Manor Nursing Care Facility, Greenville. Burial will be in Shaw Cemetery under the direction of Boone Funeral Home, Greenville.
He was a Baptist and was a member of the Benoit Baptist Church, part of the Benoit Union Church in Benoit, MS.
Lester was born in Thomaston, GA on April 7, 1931, the only child to Charles Lester and Minnie Harvell Hall. The family finally settled in Jacksonville, FL, where Lester remembered with distinction he and his dad were in a movie theater on Sunday, December 7, 1941, when they got the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Lester attended public school in Jacksonville, FL before leaving school in 1946 to join the US Army. Private First Class Hall was in the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and was stationed in Salzburg, Germany and Austria during the Allied occupation of Europe after the end of WWII.
Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, Lester worked at the airport in Jacksonville, FL refueling airplanes. He received his private pilot’s license in June of 1949 and later received his commercial pilot’s license in April of 1961.
He married Nelma Taylor on October 8, 1949 at Nelma’s brother’s home in Olustee, FL. The couple had met 6 weeks prior at church. They made their home in Jacksonville, FL before moving to Fernandina Beach, FL in 1951, where their 4 children were born.
While continuing his love of flying, he was employed by the Container Corporation of America, a paper mill in Fernandina Beach, FL, where he had worked his way up to foreman before moving to Mississippi in 1962.
While in Fernandina Beach, both Lester and Nelma were active in the Civil Air Patrol, where Lester was an executive officer. They were on call for any type emergency and undertook training for civil defense during the Cold War. Here he was also a member of the Buccaneer Flying Club and was part owner of a private plane.
In March 1962, the family moved to the Mississippi Delta so Lester could pursue his dream of becoming an agriculture pilot (at that time known as dump artist or crop duster). He flew in this capacity until 1999. His final flight was in December 2001 to deliver a plane to New Mexico.
He was also a licensed A&P (Aircraft and Power Plant) mechanic, having earned that license in 1966. He and Nelma owned several small private planes during their lifetime.
Other than planes, his hobbies in early adulthood were ski boats and motorcycles, mostly Harley Davidsons. He enjoyed riding and racing motorcycles on the weekends with friends. Later he became interested in travel trailers, sailboats and in building model airplanes. He even built a one-seater airplane in the backyard of his home in Benoit.
He and Nelma traveled extensively across the United States in their travel trailers before giving that up to become caregivers for Nelma’s handicapped sister, Hazel, and Lester’s mother until both their deaths.
In the final years of his life, he enjoyed amateur ham radio.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife of 67 years, Nelma Taylor Hall on December 10, 2016.
He is survived by 3 sons, Michael Terry Hall (Majella) of Pottsboro, TX, James William (Billy) Hall (Brenda) of Coffeeville, MS and Steve Allan Hall (Melanie) of Cleveland, MS; daughter, Sue Ellen Hall Pinnix (Tommy) of Stringtown, MS; 6 grandchildren, James William (Billy) Hall of Oakland, TN, Thomas Leslie Pinnix (Searcy) of Hernando, MS, Lisa Hall of Cleveland, MS, Allison Hall of Collierville, TN, Whitney McCown of Ada, OK, and Bethany Hall of Durant, OK; 7 great grandchildren, Samantha McCown , Brody McCown, and Hayden McCown all of Ada, OK, Madison Pinnix, Thomas Hall Pinnix, and twins, Meriwether and Milam Pinnix all of Hernando, MS; and many nieces and nephews.
There will be a visitation one hour prior to services at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to The Baptist Children’s Village, P. O. Box 27, Clinton, MS 39060-0027 or to a favorite charity.