Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer (Retired) James L. “JP” Player was born on Jan. 19, 1961 in Orlando, Fla., and grew up in Canton, Ga., the son of an Air Force veteran. Following graduation from high school, he worked at various jobs throughout the Canton area including Pizza Hut, Shoney’s Restaurant, and even a Gold Kist chicken factory where he met his wife-to-be Dorothy Shirley. Three and a half months later, Jim and Dorothy were married on New Year’s Day 1981.
Partnership secured, Jim then began to look towards the future. He dabbled in construction for a while, but soon his military family ties would lead him to a U.S. Navy Recruiting office, and his future was set.
Jim entered the Navy in 1983 through the delayed entry program. Following Recruit Training and Electronic Warfare Technician school in Orlando, Jim and Dorothy packed up their belongings and headed north to Pensacola, which they would eventually establish as their homeport. Jim reported to NTTC Corry Station in May 1983, and his Navy career was underway.
Over the next 20 years, Jim and Dorothy’s duty assignments would take them from coast to coast, from sea to shore, and even overseas. Along the way, they would add to their family, with the birth of their daughter Heather in April 1990, and son Joshua in March 1992.
Sadly, the Player family would also suffer loss, as two daughters, Lafonda Ann and Jamie Leigh, would both pass shortly after birth due to health complications. Deeply wounded by their passing, the Player family drew strength from family members and their Navy Shipmates, and they would continue their Navy journey.
Career wise, Jim would rise through the ranks quickly. He was selected to join the ranks of Chief Petty Officer in 1992 while assigned as an instructor at Corry Station, and would add a Senior Chief star just three years later, while assigned to USS La Salle (AGF-3), homeported in Gaeta, Italy.
Jim and Dorothy would return home to Pensacola in May,1998 as Jim accepted orders to the Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC) at Saufley Field. His final assignment would task him to help plot the future of his rating by writing advancement exams and training manuals for fellow Electronic Warfare Technicians.
Jim retired from active duty in January 2003, closing out his career with a retirement ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum on board NAS Pensacola in front of family members and Shipmates.
Jim dedicated his 20-year career to the education, advancement and welfare of junior Sailors. He loved being a Sailor. He loved his Navy family. He loved being a Navy Chief. But he was more than that. He was the epitome of the Navy Chief Petty Officer ranks. And he was proud to be a “Shipmate.” Following his retirement from active duty, Jim worked for a number of years with Raytheon Technologies in Pensacola as an instructional systems specialist.
Jim is preceded in death by grandparents Lessie and Dorothy Player of Valdosta, Ga.; grandparents Leonard and Bertha Setser Bell, of Cummings, Ga.; mother Estelle Bell Player; and daughters Lafonda Ann and Jamie Leigh Player.
Jim is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Dorothy Shirley Player; daughter Heather Player Peabody (Walter); son Joshua Player; granddaughter Veronica Peabody; father, Raleigh Cecil Player; sister Lafonda Player; brothers Gregory and William Player; in-laws Bobby and Dotty Shirley; brother-in-law David Shirley (Missy); sister-in-law Denice Shirley Hall; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
A cremation is planned, and interment will be conducted and Barrancas National Cemetery on board NAS Pensacola at a date and time to be determined.