Jim Fout is being praised for his passion, accomplishments and dedication by those who worked closely with hims through River Cities Harvest, the Ashland Tennis Center and his many other activities during his long life.
Fout died Wednesday at Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland. He was 84.
In 1991, Fout co-founded River Cities Harvest, a nonprofit organization that distributes food to community agencies that feed the hungry. Fout and his wife, Helen, remained one of the organization’s most active volunteers until just days before his death.
“He was a superb mentor and an inspiration to me,” said Bob Owen, the part-time coordinator of River Cities Harvest. “I learned so much from him. To me, Jim Fout was River Cities Harvest. Without him this organization simply would not exist.”
Fout was a master of organizing, Owen said. Because of those skills, the food collected during the postal workers’ annual “Stamp Out Hunger” drive in May and the tons of food brought to Ashland each summer on a semi-trailer from Feed the Children — a donation made possible by Naomi Judd — were immediately distributed to local agencies that feed the hungry.
“He really knew how to get things done,” Owen said of Fout.
Amanda Gilmore preceded Owen as coordinator of River Cities Harvest.
“Jim gave tirelessly of himself for decades to help feed our region's hungriest folks,” Gilmore said of Fout. “I first met him when I wrote about that organization's efforts, and later worked with him as a member of the RCH board. He also loved to read and was a huge history buff, so I was fortunate to be able to see him frequently the past few years at the library where I work. A kind man with a giving heart, Jim taught me a lot about ways we can all help each other.”
Jerry Groce, director of the Ashland Tennis Center, there is no question that Fout was the center’s most dedicated volunteer and loyal supporter.
“Jim and Helen Fout mowed the grass and trimmed the shrubbery at the center,” said Groce. “He fixed the roof and even did some plumbing. Jim was one of those guys who if he didn’t know how to do something, he would learn how just so it could get done. I can’t imagine what the tennis center would be like today without Jim Fout.”
Fout also organized in schools throughout Kentucky a United States Tennis Association program that taught tennis to children in school, Groce said. More than 5,000 young Kentuckians learned to play tennis through that program.
Groce said Fout was an excellent tennis player who helped make him a better player. “He was a great athlete” who played tennis competitively until last year, he said.
Educator and community activist Bill Burch said he often played tennis with Fout and knew firsthand just how good of player he was. As a member of the Ashland Breakfast Kiwanis Club, Burch worked closely with Fout on the annual food drive the club sponsors during Summer Motion. In the early years, Judd participated in that collection effort, but it has continued long past her active involvement.
Burch said the deaths of Fout and his good friend Howard VanAntwerp are a great loss. “They were two pillars of this community who did more than most people realize. People like them cannot be easily replaced.”
Burch said Fout never bragged about his achievements and even some of his good friends never knew he had played football for the Ohio State Buckeyes.”
“He was one of the most humble men I have ever met,” Owen said of Fout. “He never did anything for his own glory. He did it simply because he cared and wanted to help others. We can all learn from that.”
JOHN CANNON can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.