Jim Risher is taking a few laps in heaven today, pacing himself, but enjoying the thrill of running again after a long and hard-fought battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He is surrounded by friends and family who gathered to greet him. Though he will be missed terribly by his loved ones, he is buoyed by his eternal optimism and faith in the blessings that await him.
Jim was the son of Inez and Jim Risher, formerly of Canton, Ohio and Arlington, Texas. He spent his formative years as a strong student and talented high school athlete, participating in multiple sports at Arlington High School including basketball, baseball, boxing and football, the latter of which would earn him recognition and scouting by over 200 major colleges. He ultimately chose to play football on scholarship at Tulane, which was at the time a powerhouse in the SEC. He would recall the day fondly that he sacked a young quarterback out of Alabama named Joe Namath. Also incredibly bright, Jim went on to graduate from the University of Texas with a Master’s in Economics and Statistics. He married his first wife and friend, JoAnn Cansler of Arlington while still in college and they had two wonderful children, Becky and Clay Risher.
Jim went on to have an illustrious career at IBM, steadily advancing to leadership positions in sales and marketing. From IBM, he was recruited by Wang Labs where he worked as the SVP of US Sales and Marketing until 1985. Next, he took on another executive role at Motorola in Cupertino, California before moving back to the East Coast in 1988 to become President and CEO of Exide Electronics in Raleigh, North Carolina. At Exide, Jim was instrumental in leading the company to unprecedented growth, job creation and ultimately an IPO in 1998. He would also serve as the CEO of Del Medical in Chicago and later hold several Board advisory positions for Steel Partners and others. Until his death, he was the acting Chairman of the Raleigh nonprofit Better Homes.
In California, Jim met and married his one great love, Susan Risher, also becoming a co-parent to Sue’s young daughter Melissa. Jim and Sue were married for 30 years until his death and they enjoyed many adventures together, from skiing in Aspen to partying with Liz Taylor in Morocco. As they often said, there was no bucket list remaining. They lived their bucket list together.
He leaves behind his beloved children, grandchildren (Ilse and Even Franklin, and Will Morton), daughter- and sons-in-law (Rebecca Thorpe, Kostia Franklin and Rod Morton) and a slew of wonderful friends and members of his Tribe.
Those who knew him will miss his love of life, music and healthy debate. We wish so much that he could be here to share one last song or story with us, and that his Dallas Cowboys had tried a little harder to make it to the Super Bowl. Jim and family would like to thank his “neighborhood” of friends, caregivers, hospice and clergy who helped him maintain his dignity and sense of humor at the end of his life.
Visitation was at Andrews Mortuary Market Chapel in downtown Wilmington from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17. Services were held at St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 18. Memorials may be made to Lower Cape Fear Hospice, 1406 Physician’s Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401.
Condolences may be left at www.andrewsmortuary.com.