James Clifton Tufts shot three men who were trying to rob a bank in Dodge City on a hot summer's day in June.
Or so we'd like to imagine ... Tufts was a storyteller and a fan of westerns.
He had a black, felt cowboy hat and treasured an Old West-themed family portrait taken in Tombstone, Arizona. It's why we can picture him, standing outside a dusty street corner, firing his six-shooters as the bank robbers dropped to the ground. The commotion would likely draw the attention of Dodge City's sheriff, a lawman who looked
an awful lot like television actor James Arness, as well as two deputies who bore more than a passing resemblance to Ken Curtis and Burt Reynolds. After thanking him profusely, the sheriff would inquire if Tufts could do them one last favor. "How can I help?," asked Tufts, a phrase he uttered often, and those who knew him best would agree he said it a lot. "There's a dangerous outlaw causing problems by the name of 'Leo Blastoma'," the sheriff said. ''And we need someone who's brave enough to face him. Can you do it?" Tufts always volunteered when people needed help. He rode out with his head held high, not seeking fame or glory, but trying to make the world a better place.
As he journeyed out of Dodge City, he'd begin imagining what his life would be like if he wasn't hunting dangerous outlaws -a life well-lived and deeply appreciated by those who knew and loved him.
A good life, he thought, would start precisely on October 18, 1952, in somewhere pleasant like Ashland, Massachusetts. He'd be the only child of James and Katherine Tufts, and he'd spend countless, happy summers in Maine building sandcastles along the beach.
He'd grow into a fine young man with a deep appreciation for cinema, and so he'd graduate Grahm Junior College in Boston, Massachusetts with a degree in television production and film.
His pursuit of knowledge would lead him to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in communications, and then later receive a teaching certificate for US History, World History, Texas History, Economics and Government from Angelo State University.
In Boston, he'd meet Mary Anne Latham, a beautiful young woman who wouldn't give him the time of day for months, but that was alright. Thanks to perseverance (and making friends with her mother), he'd eventually take Mary out on a few dates. They'd fall in love and get married in 1973.
He and Mary Anne Latham Tufts would happily travel the country together, and later the world, seeing places like Stonehenge, the Louvre, the Alps, the Crown Jewels of England, Rome and Africa, where a tribe of Maasai people would bestow upon him the name, "Blessed One."
Their marriage, equally blessed, would produce two children -John Gabriel Tufts and Sarah Marie Curry. To each child, he'd give his love for storytelling. His son would make a career writing as a journalist in Indianapolis, Indiana. His daughter would take the stage as an actor in Austin, Texas.
A nurturing and loving parent, he'd read his son's stories and watch just about every theater production his daughter was involved in.
Service would be a major part of his life. He would join the United States Air Force in November of 1972. A Vietnam Era Veteran, he would retire after 22 years of active duty service with the rank of Captain in March of 1996.
Having a servant's heart, he would attend Unity Spiritual Center in San Angelo, Texas often volunteering to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees, as a prayer chaplain and would drive people to and from church whenever needed.
In serving his community, he'd join the East Angelo Lions Club in San Angelo, Texas, and volunteer with the American Red Cross.
When not doing volunteer work, his leisure activities would include rooting for (and sometimes yelling at), the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. He'd love playing cribbage and joking and laughing with friends in the Lions Club.
He'd enjoy golfing too -mostly watching it in his later years -and playing putt-putt with his grandchildren: Lauryn, Ethan and Owen Clark, and Sage Aleksandra Tufts, all of them seemingly filled with the light and laughter of a thousand stars.
"We are all made of star-stuff," he'd often like to say, a quote by Carl Sagan, and a reminder that all of us belong to the universe, and to the universe we must return one day in a different form.
At age 70, James Clifton Tufts went back to the universe as 'star-stuff ' on April 15, 2023.
It was a great life, in which he'd been a happy and curious traveler, and like so many characters in his beloved westerns who rode off quietly into the sunset, he was remembered as a kind friend, a good father, caring grandparent, and a loving husband -not to mention, a wonderful, wonderful storyteller.
Memorial Services will be at 2:00 PM Tuesday, May 16, 2023 at Unity Spiritual Center, 5237 Bryant Blvd South, San Angelo, Texas 76904 with Rev. Janie L. Kelley, bereavement coordinator at Angels Care Hospice, officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Robert Massie Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to the Texas Lions Camp, P.O. Box 290247, Kerrville, TX 78029.
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