Mount Olive Ministries Pastor Gary Sears said, “This is a special occasion for you and [a chance for us] to talk about the difference Jim Rush has made in our community.”
Rush was born Oct. 31, 1938, in Rome, Ga., to the late J.L. “Shorty” Rush and Nellie Richie Rush. He is a graduate of Rome High School in Rome.
He started working in funeral service in 1954. He graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in 1959. That same year, he married his wife, Judith Ann Brock. They moved to Cleveland in 1964 to work for Ralph Buckner at Buckner Funeral Home.
Another one of his passions is law enforcement. Before moving to Cleveland he worked for the Floyd County, Ga., Sheriff’s Department and in the early 1970s in Cleveland he worked for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department in the Detectives Division.
“I’ve watched the process of his life. I’ve watched how he’s cared for families. I’ve watched how he has been a part of protecting our community and being aggressive about that,” Sears said. “He is a ‘second-mile Christian’ described in Matthew 5:40 where it says not only to walk a mile, but that second mile also. I’ve watched that in Jim’s life, in his business, in his community activities and even in golfing.”
Eldest son Greg, who arranged the luncheon, said his father’s first love is serving, through funeral service, those who have lost loved ones, and that would become his identity in Cleveland, Bradley County and the surrounding areas.
“I want to thank you for being a good teacher,” Greg said to his father. “You taught us that it is better to be humble at what you do. That will help you help people.”
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and City Councilman Dale Hughes read official statements announcing Friday as “Jim Rush Day.” State Rep. Eric Watson presented Rush with a flag flown above the state Capitol in his honor.
Buckner sold his funeral home to a large funeral home conglomerate in 1973, which Rush managed from 1973 to 1977. In 1977, Ralph Buckner Jr. and Jim Rush bought the funeral home and it became Buckner-Rush Funeral Homes.
A year later, Ralph Buckner Jr. sold his share of the funeral home to Rush and it became Rush family-owned and operated.
In 1993, Rush sold the business to Prime Succession and Greg managed the funeral home until 2003, when the Rush family bought the business back. It has remained Rush family-owned and operated since.
Rush’s willingness to help families in their greatest times of need is what he is known for. No one has ever been turned away because of financial circumstances. Rush has always taught his staff that everybody deserves a proper burial regardless of whether they can pay or not. He has instilled that service model in his sons Greg and Marc Rush.
“My dad has been a great teacher over the years, not just in the proper way to conduct funeral services but how to treat people,” Greg said. “Watching him walk that fine line between just going through the motions with helping people and being overemotional with them has been incredible. It’s a very difficult line to walk and he has done it as well as anybody.
“I have watched him over the years be strong for a family and help them through their difficult time, and then in private watching him get emotional talking about that particular family,” Greg said. “He has taught me to never put myself above people. Humility will serve you better and will allow you to serve people better.”
Rush has served on numerous Tennessee Funeral Directors Association boards and was 1993-94 president. He was asked to give the commencement address to the graduating class of Mortuary Science students at the Gupton-Jones Mortuary Science School in Atlanta.
Jim’s family includes his wife, Judy Brock Rush, Greg Rush and his wife, Darla, Marc Rush and his wife Tina, Kim Rush, Kathi Douglas and her husband, Darrin, his grandchildren, Jennifer Rush, Brock Rush and his wife, Kayla, Bailey Rush, Matthew Rush, Caleb Douglas, Cameron Douglas, Carter Douglas, Collin Douglas, Cole Douglas and his step-granddaughter, Olivia Howard.
Westmore Church of God Pastor Kelvin Page gave the closing prayer. He acknowledged the lack of human understanding of “callings, destinies and purpose, but we believe that you’ve been leading this couple’s lives even when they weren’t aware of it. We thank you for their influence and we pray that that influence would continue on.”