On January 2, 2021, at the age of 82, Jimmie Eli “Jim” Key left this world behind, headed for a new ad-venture. Born to Eli James and Dora Mae Key in New Castle, Indiana, Jim attended Morehead State University after graduating from New Castle High in 1956.
Always looking for greener pastures, in 1963, at the age of 25, Jim packed up his home and headed to South Florida with his young family. Miami’s bright lights, modern architecture and buoyant economy had more appeal than the slower pace of tiny New Castle. Always an entrepreneur at heart, Jim in-dulged in cigarette sales, encyclopedia sales, mobile home sales and property development. As a young man he temporarily supplemented his income by diving for exotic fish to sell to pet stores in Miami. Jim also had various hobbies including drag car racing. He once had his own racing team based at the Mi-ami/Hollywood Speedway Park. Together he and his team, which often included brothers Art and Ken, and mechanic Mike Fiorelli, traveled the NHRA drag racing circuit in a motor home. He was a record holder in his division. In 2018 Jim was inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Jim lived and worked briefly in New Orleans before settling to his final home on Lake Harris in Yalaha, Florida, in the late 1970’s. Still entertaining his entrepreneurial spirit, Jim successfully developed a re-tirement community in Tavares, naming it Lake Frances Estates. Jim always envisioned Lake Frances as a family business and when his brother Art retired from Chrysler Corporation in New Castle, he moved his family to Tavares to assist Jim. By this time Jim also had three growing children and his nephew John Key, to help him with the business.
Jim continued to live an amazing life of travel and adventure even into retirement. He loved many things in his life but there was nothing he loved more than his family. Gathering for food and fun times was al-ways a priority to Jim. No matter when or where it would be he wanted everyone together for a good time. He also loved sports, particularly college football and golf. His love for the Florida Gators led him to become a University of Florida Bull Gator and for years Jim enjoyed taking friends to games in his tour bus and watching from his skybox. The last few decades of Jim’s life were spent playing golf, traveling, snow skiing, boating, lobstering, game fishing, and gambling with his wife, children, grandchildren, and friends. Jim never had a dull moment and never missed an opportunity to not only have a good time but create a good time for everyone around him. His beautiful smile could light up the whole room.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Eli James and Dora Mae Key, and his much beloved brother Arthur “Art” Key. He leaves to cherish these wonderful memories his wife, Ruth Ann Byrd Key; sons, Bruce Key (Cheryl Davis) of Burlington, VT, Jimmie Eli Key of Sunrise, FL, and Jimmy D. Cooper of Ferndale, FL; daughters, Kimme’ Key Warner (Dan, deceased) of Sunrise, FL and Melody Hayes (Travis) of Eustis, FL; brother Kendrick “Ken” (Sheila) of New Castle, IN; sister-in-law Mary Lou Key of Tavares, FL; 8 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews, friends and family.
Due to the Covid epidemic a formal “celebration of life” will be postponed to a later time.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to Compassionate Care Hospice in ap-preciation for the unwavering care they provided to Jim and his family in his final days: https://www.amedisys.com/about/foundation/