Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 9, 2013

Sykes, last remaining Emergency Corps founder, dies at 85

Corsicana — Whether people in the community were happy and excited on their way to a Tiger game, or grieving the death of a loved one, James Sykes was there.

He was the white-haired figure in a crisp white shirt and uniform pants waving cars into the parking lot, or escorting the funeral procession up to the cemetery entrance where he would stand with his hat over his heart, once again stopping traffic. He led off parades, and helped keep the peace at festivals, responded to airplane crashes, tornadoes, and fires, and led searches for lost children and drowning victims.

Sykes, 85, the last charter member of the Corsicana Emergency Corps, died Wednesday.

The Emergency Corps is a service organization that helps with traffic control for football games and other major events, provides escorts for funerals, and logistics for parades. Sykes was the corps’ chief for 35 years.

“The Emergency Corps was like his child,” said Precinct 1 Constable Mike Davis, who joined the CEC in 1990.

“He was more than our leader,” Davis said. “He was a figure of a man you aspired to be.

“What he did for the citizens just made everyone around him want to do the same thing,” Davis said. “He just didn’t turn people down. If he was available,  you could count on him.”

Sykes had a long, varied life before he and some buddies in the police reserves formed a weather watch in 1961. He’d been a member of the Corsicana Fire Department and a U.S. Army veteran, he was retired from the Texas Department of Transportation, and was precinct 4 constable for 15 years. He was married to his wife Lorene for more than 60 years. Together, he and Lorene had two children, Keith Sykes and Karen Fincher, and one grandchild, Drew Sykes.

The CEC was just one of the many aspects of James Sykes’ life, but it was the one that brushed up against the most people in this community.

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy,” said John Robinson, who volunteered with Sykes in the CEC. “He led by example. He’d never ask you to do something unsafe or that shouldn’t be done. And wherever he saw the need, it was James on the spot.”

Born July 19, 1927 in Dawson, Sykes wed Lorena Brown in 1950, and they are parents of Keith Sykes and Karen Ann Fincher, and grandparents of Drew Sykes. The funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Calvary Worship Center.

“He was one of the main reasons I stayed in as long as I did,” said Kevin Raymond, a volunteer for the last decade. “He taught me a lot while I was in the Emergency Corps. He taught me what to do, and the right way to do things. He just showed me the right direction as I was coming in. I lost my dad quite a few years back, so James was a father figure to me. I’m going to miss him.

“He was an icon.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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