Rising above

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With help from The Salvation Army, James King lives his ‘simple life.’

By Yadira Gutierrez –

James King has always had a positive outlook, along with a desire to live a simple life. Eventually, his path would lead him to The Salvation Army.

One of 11 children, King grew up in Detroit, where early on he discovered a passion for music and became an accomplished guitarist. In 1974 he moved to California to pursue a musical career and formed a band, Halo. The group released its first single, “Let Me Do It,” in 1980. According to Discogs, “Halo is considered as one of the original West Coast Garage Indie Bands of the late 70s— a bunch of kids dedicated to funk, soul, rock and R&B Music.”

“My music was a great accomplishment, but that’s what it was—an accomplishment,” King said. “It’s not what defines me. I’m just a simple man.”

King still sought simplicity, despite his time in the music industry. He got married and had a son, and in 2004 the family moved to Oregon. Then in 2007, after 22 years of marriage, Phyllis, his wife, became ill and died.

“This was the hardest day of my life,” King said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Just four months later, he faced another challenge, when he experienced chest pain while working. He went to the doctor, who immediately sent him to the hospital. He had immediate quadruple bypass surgery.

“I was ready to go,” King said. “It was just too much for me. She [Phyllis] died in my hands. It sounds crazy but I thought that I had my heart attack because I couldn’t deal with Phyllis’ death.”

King found the will to live and focused on his recovery. In 2012, his doctors implanted a pacemaker, prompting his heart to beat normally.

“I consider myself fortunate just to walk; my heart is working at 25 percent,” King said.

King was making progress, though, when in 2016 he was unexpectedly asked to leave his apartment. When plans for new housing fell through, he was suddenly homeless.

“I thought it was going to be a smooth transition,” he said. “I just held my head down and cried.”

He ended up in a motel room, calling various organizations looking for help. A Salvation Army case manager returned his call.

“I said, ‘Lord, thank you,’ when Jen said I had a place to stay,” King said. “I was about ready to lose it. I felt helpless. What do you do when you are helpless? To be able to sleep in a bed and not in the street is so wonderful.”

King entered The Salvation Army Lighthouse Shelter in Salem, Oregon, and within three months, graduated from the program. Today he lives in his own apartment, grateful to be able to live simply.

“I’m thankful for my health, my family, and for still being able to use my mind in a productive way,” he said. “I try to go to church every Sunday, health permitting, to associate with people who are like-minded, and most importantly praise God for everything. I pray for The Salvation Army to continue to do God’s work.”

Someday, King would like to return to California to be near his son and grandchildren.

“I’m happy to be alive,” he said. “Life is still a mystery.”

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