James Ethridge Underwood

Monday, March 4, 2013
James Ethridge Underwood

James Ethridge Underwood, 96, of West Melbourne, Fla., died Friday, March 1, 2013. He was born January. 8, 1917, in Piggott, Ark., the son of Jimmy and Ethel (Cox) Underwood. He graduated from Piggott High School in 1934 and married Imogene Pillow of Pollard in 1939.

Mr. Underwood worked in Piggott for the Cotton Belt Railroad as a student telegrapher before moving to Detroit in 1940, where he took a tool and die apprenticeship with Murray Corporation. In the years leading up to the war, he worked on air-frame assemblies for the B-17, B-24 and P-47. During World War II, he spent two years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, where he served as an instructor for maintenance and operation of 30- and 50-caliber machine guns.

Mr. Underwood worked 18 years as a manufacturing engineer for Chrysler Corporation in Detroit and at Cape Kennedy, Fla. As head of the manufacturing and plant engineering section, he worked on the Redstone, Jupiter and Saturn missile programs.

He left Chrysler to join Eaton Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio, as a manufacturing engineer. There, he assisted in the development of air bag passive restraint systems and axles for 18-wheelers.

After his retirement, he served on the Citizen Advisory Board of West Melbourne, Fla., for 10 years. He moved to Buena Vida Estates in 2004.

Mr. Underwood was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Imogene, in 2004. Their only daughter, Glenda Ann (Underwood) Coleman, died in 1962. Both are buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Berkley, Mich.

He is survived by brothers Herschel Underwood of Chesterfield Township, Mich.; Gerald Underwood of Palm Bay, Fla.; Charles Underwood of Piggott, Ark. and Larry Underwood of Derby, Kan. He is also survived by sisters Jan Lea Mann of Piggott, Ark.; Mary Schnaak of Ormond Beach, Fla. and Betty Cash of Panama City, Fla. He was preceded in death by brothers Leon and Jimmy Gene Underwood.

Florida viewing will be at Ammen Family Cremation and Funeral Care, Melbourne Fla. Final viewing, services and burial will be in Berkley, Mich. with Sawyer -- Fuller Funeral Home charged with the arrangments.

Memorials may be made to Buena Vida Estates, West Melbourne, Fla. or to Hospice of St. Francis.