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1928 James 2023

James Rhodes

November 22, 1928 — February 6, 2023

James Lowell Rhodes, 94 years old, of Penwell, Texas, went to his eternal home February 6, 2023, surrounded by his three daughters. Born prematurely in Seminole, Oklahoma on November 22, 1928 to the late S.E. and Iler (Studdard) Rhodes, Lowell was the youngest of four and came into the world with a low chance of survival. He eventually thrived, thanks in large part to the help of a wet nurse and spent his early years small enough to comfortably sleep in a sewing drawer. These trials undoubtedly translated into a lifetime built on tenacity and grit; which could often be confused with pure hard-headedness.

S.E. and Iler, like many during the great depression, left Oklahoma with the intent of landing in California, but when their vehicle gave out, they worked and limped their way across Texas with their four children, Jack, Coy, Nita and Lowell, finally landing a few miles west of Odessa in the then-bustling oil town of Penwell. At the time, Penwell boasted six lumberyards, several filling stations, a couple of clothing stores, two hotels, a doctor's office, a drugstore, a barbershop, a pool hall, a dance hall, and even a newspaper, the Penwell News. The Penwell we know today, however, would undoubtedly be missing from I-20 and our Texas maps if it wasn’t for Lowell Rhodes.

Lowell attended school in Odessa, leaving OHS to work and support his family, repairing tires of interstate travelers and honing his welding skills, eventually building and growing Rhodes Welding with his father and brothers, which operated in Penwell and Snyder.

Lowell married Billie Jean Jarrett, also of Penwell, on her high school graduation day in May of 1948. They had four children, Jerry Wayne, Patricia Lynn, James Michael, and Pamela Gail. The couple later divorced in 1960.  Then in 1968, Lowell met a pretty waitress at the Penwell truck stop and later married Sherry Madden and adopted her daughter, Sherry Lynn. While Lowell spent much of his time building his business, he did take the occasional “vacation”, which usually meant driving the welding truck to the nearest body of water to seine bait to later be used fishing. On one trip to Red Lake with the four oldest kids in tow, the truck ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, prompting Lowell to walk to the nearest phone, a mere hours away. Anyone who knew Lowell knew he could be counted on to always pack potted meat and plain saltines (and maybe the occasional cigarette), so while completely stranded in the dark, at least the crew didn’t go hungry. To this day, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren still keep potted meat in their hunting packs, just in case.

On another, possibly ill-advised road trip with young children in tow, Lowell drove the youngest girls to Vegas and made sure to pack the necessities; a paper bag of fresh, ripe tomatoes from his garden, the aforementioned potted meat and some pocket money for a one-night stay at the brand-new Sands hotel. On the way into the hotel, the days-old tomato bag ripped, spilling overly-ripened tomatoes all over the casino’s patterned carpets. After one night on the strip, they moved to a much more economical motel, remaining tomatoes in tow.

In the early 60s, Lowell, following yet another “quiet” lead, drove his long-time friend Dudley Owens in the welding truck to Alpine for a sheriff’s’ sale. Rumor has it, Lowell found the auction location in the courthouse and then quietly took any visible signs down, which undoubtedly helped him purchase extensive Rio Grande riverfront property just south of Big Bend. The ranch became a passion project, where he later blew sides of the mountains out with dynamite, creating treacherous roads that lead to the best catfish fishing in Texas, and a lifetime spent chasing the next big catch. The river is also where his kids learned to swim, possibly against their will, where many nights were spent camping under the stars, and provided fish for the countless fish fries and domino tournaments that happened back in Penwell.

Lowell was always a shrewd businessman, possessing an almost sixth sense for buying when the market was low, and holding out on selling until prices peaked again. He spent years building his business and relationships with people in the oil, gas and ranching industries, even selling an old redwood oil tank to a big wig Hollywood producer, who was happy to spend a large sum for the tank’s small cameo in the movie “There Will Be Blood”. Lowell didn’t care much for luxury, but after spending countless hours working on and repairing his old truck as a young man, he swore if he could afford it, he would never have another vehicle he had to work on, a promise he kept for the next 70 years.

His children and grandchildren spent parts of their childhoods growing up in the Rhodes welding shop, enjoying his creations and learning life skills, including the fact that an old chair hooked up to a hoist made a heck of a zipline, and that one man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure. Lowell lived out his final years at home in Penwell, where he continued to collect equipment and friends. He never tired enough to willingly slow down, but he was blessed to know and love two more generations of children, including 15 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. Jerry, Mike, Coy, Jack, Nita, Sherry, Billy Jean, baby Chase, and so many friends and family members are waiting on him in Heaven, and he leaves countless people on earth to continue sharing his tall tales and wonderful memory.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Rhodes, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Funeral Service

Friday, February 10, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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