Sumner James Waring, “Jim,” was a man with a mission throughout his life. He enjoyed helping people, both in his business and his personal life. As the Funeral Director and Senior Service Counselor at the Waring-Sullivan Homes of Memorial Tribute, the firm established in 1871 by his great grandfather, Henry Waring, he had the opportunity to assist people at a difficult time in their lives.
However, Jim’s interest in helping people began long before he started his 50 year career in funeral service. He was a student at the Choate School when he heard John F. Kennedy speak, and the main focus of his speech was that people who are more privileged have the obligation to give back to the community. not only in money, but time. This made a deep impression upon him, and he never forgot it. Speaking about his family, he remembered that they were all involved in public service.
Jim was the great, great, great grandson of Nathaniel Briggs Borden, the first U. S. congressman from the area, and the third mayor of Fall River. In his time, public buildings were often built with private money donated by families who had done well in business. High schools, libraries, homes for children and the elderly were all built with private money. Many families in Fall River contributed to these projects, including Jim’s family.
Fall River had many textile mills, and the owners took care of their workers, providing housing and other services. The Sagamore Mill even had its own hospital and doctors. According to Jim, this sort of philanthropy was normal, accepted and admired.
There was a Women’s Union in Fall River which took care of those entrusted to them. Jim said, “I see that base here in New England as being very important.” The Adams House and Bayview for retired people were built with private funds, and are part of what is known as the Home For Aged People in Fall River, a not-for-profit life care community. Jim Waring was Chairman of this organization for 37 years.
As Waring commented, “All phases of life were covered.” There was the Fall River Deaconess Home, the Stevens Childrens’ Home, The Childrens’ Home of Fall River, all supported by private money. Those who had the means stepped up to help take care of those who had less and needed help. That was the spirit of the times.
Asked to express his philosophy of volunteering, Jim answered, “It’s essential to the present and future America.” He said that half of America was built with private money. Those who made fortunes, like the Rockefellers, the Fords and the Kennedys made it their business to support America and various charities. He felt that this has not been carried on sufficiently in recent times.
Now the need is still there, but the federal government is shouldering much of the burden. Jim said, “Whether that’s good or not is up to you to decide.”
He twas convinced that Social Security has not done as much as is necessary. And he singled out for praise individuals who have done their part, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, both of whom are very wealthy and have given generously.
Jim’s interest in helping people also extended to his family life. He said his wife, Liz, is also very committed to public service, as is her mother, who is 95. He said, “It’s been pretty special.” Jim and Liz had two children, Sumner James III and Christine E. Waring, and three grandchildren.
All of them have volunteered both time and money for many different causes. According to Jim, his company, in business for 140 years, has always been dedicated to their philosophy of helping others. He said, “We have never refused anyone a decent burial. Our firm is committed to that.” Commitment was central to his professional life, and it carried over into his personal life.
Jim enjoyed boating, music, and he loved to read, and said, “people should do more of it.” He closely followed the Red Sox and the Patriots. But he said his most important hobby was “helping people.”
Clearly, Jim Waring and his family have been positive influences in their communities. They have carried on the traditions of giving handed down from their families, and created new ones during his fifty years of service at Waring-Sullivan Homes. Jim not only lived a satisfying and productive life, but also made a positive difference to many people. He said, “I am deeply grateful to be here.”