Joseph Russell Higham
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Joseph Russell Higham
  • February 2, 1925 - November 1, 2017
  • Georgetown, Texas

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Joseph Russell ("Joe") Higham, Jr., 92, of Georgetown, Texas, died at Baylor Scott and White Round Rock Hospital on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 after a long and courageous battle with lung cancer.

Joe is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ann, of Georgetown, TX, son Dr. J. Russell (Russ) Higham, III and his wife Debby ("Debby Do") of Waco, TX, son Tim ("Timbo') C. Higham of Austin, TX, daughter Susan ("Suz") and her husband Alexis and beloved granddaughter Sarah Ortiz-Monasterio of Weston, FL, and half sister Wanda Haviland of Flint, MI. He is preceeded in death by his parents, sister Alice Ann Lemons, half brother and sister Bob Swartz and Joyce Shaffer, and a host of beloved family pets: Tuffy, Mangey, Girldog, Tina, Chuki, Cricket, Tigger and Kiki.

Joe was born in Johnstown, PA, on February 2, 1925. He attended Westmont High School however, nearing the completion of his senior year, at the age of 17, Joe joined the United States Navy, experiencing an overwhelming need to serve and defend his country. He was assigned to PC-618 whose mission was the search and destruction of German submarines in the North and South Atlantic as well as the North Sea. PC- 618 was sent to England in early 1944 to prepare for the Normandy Invasion. Her mission was to lead other ships to Omaha Beach and serve as a guide post 2,200 yards offshore when the first waves of landing craft, laden with soldiers preparing for the massive beach landing, approached the beach before dawn on D-Day. PC-618 remained in place throughout the siege, recovering bodies and later burying them at sea. PC-618 spent the remainder of 1944 patrolling the Normandy Coast for enemy submarines and on December 24, 1944, Joe's ship, positioned in the waters off Cherbourg, France, received orders to speed to the site of a torpedoed Belgian ship, the S.S. Leopoldville, which was carrying the US Army troops of the 262nd and 264th regiments of the 66th Panther Division. Once again, Joe participated in the search and rescue of survivors, and the dead, subsequently personally saving 18 men. The events of these two momentous events in Joe's life impacted and affected him his entire life.

Following World War II, Joe was discharged to Newton D. Baker VA Hospital in Martinsburg, WV, for extended rehabilitation. It was here Joe learned of Shepherd College in the nearby town of Shepherdstown. He immediately fell in love with the serenity of this quaint village nestled on the banks of the Potomac River. In 1948 Joe enrolled in Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) and it was in Mr. Horner's English Literature class that he first saw Ann; it was love at first sight. Ann and Joe married at Trinity Episcopal Church, Shepherdstown, on August 26, 1951.

In 1952 Joe graduated with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences and ceremoniously earned four letters as a celebrated offensive and defensive end on the Shepherd varsity football team on which he served as team co-captain during his senior year. Upon graduation he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Maryland, receiving a Master of Science degree in Marine and Fresh Water Biology in 1955.

Following graduate school Joe began a life long career serving with the U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service beginning in Beaufort, NC, where he served as a saltwater research biologist from 1955-1963. Joe, Ann and their three children then moved to Mobridge, SD, where he directed research in fresh water studies from 1963-1972. In November of 1972 Joe was promoted to Director of Environmental Impact Studies in Galveston, TX, where he and his family remained until 1977 when he was appointed as Area Manager of Texas and Oklahoma, relocating to Austin, TX, where he established the Regional Office. Joe retired in 1980, culminating 25 years of dedicated service lead with constant integrity and the recognition of potential in his employees. Joe's work ethic was such that his selfless consideration for the welfare and advancement of his co-workers frequently overshadowed any desire for recognition of personal achievement.

Upon retirement, Joe and Ann found pleasure traveling about in their motor home, while maintaining a residence in Bastrop, TX, and eventually discovered Pendleton, SC, where they lived from 1995-2008. They found great pleasure in renovating their Pendleton home, relaxing on the back porch overlooking their expansive tree and azalea laden backyard, and enjoying nearby Clemson University's extensive health and fitness programs, quickly becoming avid Tiger fans. They returned to Texas in 2008, selecting a house in a newly developed neighborhood in Sun City, Georgetown, which quickly became a home surrounded by neighbors with whom they easily bonded, developing lasting friendships and an amazing support system.

Family plans include a celebration of Joe's life in Georgetown, TX, and inurnment in Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, WV, at a later date. Throughout his life Joe held a very special place in his heart for all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, and often remarked, "When I get to heaven I hope God puts me in charge of all the animals". In keeping with this spirit, memorials may be made in Joe's name to the Georgetown Animal Shelter, Post Office Box 409, Georgetown, TX, 78627, 512-930-3592.

Arrangements under the direction of Cook-Walden Davis Funeral Home, 2900 Williams Drive, Georgetown, Texas 78628 (512)863-2564.