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James B. Isbell Veteran
May 17, 2020


James Branch Isbell, 93, went home to be with the Lord on Sunday morning, May 17th, 2020 after a ten month battle with colon cancer. James was a 13 year resident of Derry, New Hampshire, but he spent 46 years as a resident of Saugus, Massachusetts. Born on April 21st, 1927, in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, the son of the late James Branch Isbell Jr. and Estelle (Williams) Isbell, James grew up in Monroe, and New Orleans, Louisiana, and Tucson, and Phoenix, Arizona where he graduated from Phoenix Union High School in 1945. After graduation he joined the US Navy and fought in WW II on the USS Abnaki which was the lead ship of the Abnaki class of Fleet Ocean Tugs in the service of the US Navy. The ship was named after the Abenaki tribe of Native Americans. During WW II Abnaki served in the Europe-Africa-Middle East and Asiatic-Pacific theaters. Following his service in the Navy James entered the University of Arizona, in Tucson, Arizona, under the G.I. bill, where he pursued a degree in engineering. It was during this time he met his future wife Elsie Marie Martin. After a short 6 month courtship, James and Elsie were married on August 31, 1947 and spent 66 wonderful years together.

Upon Graduation from the University of Arizona in 1951, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering James became a pioneer in the field of gas turbine aerodynamics. First, he was with Westinghouse, and then in 1959 he transferred to General Electric where he was one of a small group that formed the Small Aircraft Engine Group. Together, they helped to define the new discipline of high performance aerodynamics in which James distinguished himself throughout his more than 40 year career specializing in Aerodynamic Engineering. He was a member of the engineering design board, fan booster and compressor in aerodynamics. He had a part in developing the T-58 turbine engine which was the power plant in the US Coast Guard Rescue Helicopters, as well as the turbine engines for numerous other military aircraft including the J-85 engine used to power the Air Force Thunderbirds F-16C, and Navy Blue Angels F/A-18A. He also worked on the design for the General Electric (GE) 25 engine, and the T 700 series which powers multiple Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, as well as the Army's Boeing AH -64 Longbow Apache. The T 700 engine also powers the US Army's UH-60A/L Black Hawk utility helicopter, and AH-64A/D Apache Attack Helicopters. In addition, the T700-GE-701C powers the US Marine Corps MH-60R Seahawk, and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters as well as the US Air Force's HH-60G Pave Hawk. During his career he received numerous citations and awards for excellence in jet engine design, including the Blue Max Medal.

In addition to his career, James devoted much of his spare time to his faith and the Lord. A devoted Christian he served in his church in many different ways including as an elder, a teacher in Sunday School, a Bible Institute Instructor, and a counselor at summer camp. James also had a love for missions and missionaries, and enjoyed having many of them over to his house. His heart’s desire was to serve the Lord in any way he could.

James was an avid physical fitness enthusiast and after participating in track and field, and swimming, in High School, he continued to excel in those sports in College along with boxing and fencing. He continued to swim through much of his life and also greatly enjoyed hiking, cross country skiing, mountain climbing, canoeing and snowshoeing. The yearly summer family vacations, and winter expeditions with his sons and work buddies to Mt. Katahdin, in Baxter State Park in Maine, were the source of many interesting stories.

A passionate history buff, lover of learning, opera and classical music aficionado, James had a large book collection, and music collection. He greatly enjoyed his yearly memberships and trips to the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science and New England Aquarium in Boston.

He spent many years as a Boy Scout in his youth and was a descendant of American Colonists, founders of Virginia Colony in The King Charles Grant. 1623

One of his unique talents was his ability to write beautifully in Calligraphy, and he would often use this talent to write out beautiful invitations, posters, special awards or documents for his family and friends.

Shortly after retiring from his career as an engineer, James began a second career teaching High School, math and science including Algebra, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. After 25 years of teaching High School James retired at the age of 90 and spent his last 3 years, finally, as a man of leisure spending his summers taking trips to see his children and grandchildren who did not live locally.

In addition to being predeceased by his parents, James was also predeceased by two granddaughters, Dena Donato and Lily Marian Isbell. He is survived by his loving and devoted family, that includes his 5 children and their spouses: Jacqueline and Laurence Jones of Jackson, Mississippi; Georgiana Isbell of Londonderry, NH; Branch and Greta Isbell of Spring, TX; Stephanie and Lawrence Tinsley of Haverhill, MA; and Timothy and Margaret Isbell of Derry, NH; his grandchildren, Donald Donato, Kaycee White, Chaynie Borum, Cody Isbell, Colette Osborne, Brendan Maxner, Malcolm Isbell and Jedidiah Isbell; and 10 great grandchildren.

He will be remembered, and greatly missed for the twinkle in his eyes, his strength, wisdom, sense of humor, spirit of adventure, life of faith, story telling, generosity, and love and devotion to his family.

A private graveside service was held with family only due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Interment prayers and burial was held at the NH Veterans Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Hwy, Boscawen, NH on Thursday, May 21, 2020. A memorial service is being planned for the future, and will be open to all who would like to attend.

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Peabody Funeral Homes
Londonderry and
Derry, NH 03038