Cover photo for James "Jim" Frederick Kaatz's Obituary
James "Jim" Frederick Kaatz Profile Photo

James "Jim" Frederick Kaatz

April 27, 1933 — June 4, 2023

Seabrook Island, SC

James "Jim" Frederick Kaatz


James Fredrick Kaatz, affectionately known as "Papa" to his family and caregivers, passed away June 4th, 2023. He was surrounded by Barbara his wife of almost 69 years, his four daughters, grandchildren, and loving caregivers. He leaves behind a legacy of love, patriotism, artistic talent, and a close-knit family whom he cherished above all else. Papa was born on April 27th, 1933 in Deerfield, Illinois. He led a remarkable life filled with numerous accomplishments and deep connections with his friends and loved ones.

A veteran of the Korean War, Papa served his country with honor and pride. His love for his country was unwavering and he carried that patriotic fervor throughout his life. Many times he told the story of returning to the US aboard a troop ship. The captain announced, "Gentleman, the lights you see on the horizon are those of the great United States". He would relate how the tears flowed down his cheeks, just as they did when he told the story again at his recent 90th birthday party. He was a lover of the patriotic marches of John Philip Sousa and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture always stirred his soul. Papa's love for his country was evident in his support for its symbols and values, a love he passed on to his four daughters.

A graduate of the University of Illinois School of Architecture, Papa's architectural abilities were respected throughout Tennessee, even serving as president of the Tennessee chapter of the American Institute of Architects(AIA). His firm, Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris participated in projects that are iconic Tennessee landmarks, projects such as the UT Hospital, Knoxville's Mchee-Tyson Airport, UT's Neyland Stadium, and dozens of public schools. His dedication to his craft and meticulous attention to detail ensured each structure he designed was a masterpiece in its own right.

Beyond his architectural brilliance, Papa was an outstanding artist and a skilled woodworker. His creative mind brought forth unique and awe-inspiring features in his own homes and those of his beloved daughters and their husbands. He took great joy in guiding and assisting each of them at some point in building or remodeling their houses, leaving a lasting imprint of his love and craftsmanship in their homes.

One of Papa's greatest passions was the beach. He reveled in the joy of teaching his daughters and ten grandchildren the art of body surfing. The memories they shared in the crashing waves were filled with laughter, happiness, and the timeless bond between generations. Since their first family trip to the beach in a VW bus, the beach has held a special place in Papa's heart, a place where he could relax and form a deep connection with his family.

Papa's sentimental nature was especially evident when it came to all things patriotic. Tears of pride and emotion flowed freely when he witnessed displays of patriotism honoring the country he held dear. He was also a quiet man of faith, except when he loudly sang traditional hymns in the shower. He was an avid supporter of the Tennessee Volunteers with a special affinity for the UT Marching Band and the Lady Vols basketball team. Papa would excitedly cheer on his beloved teams, all the while fostering a love  of sports among his daughters. He would smile with joy when he would see them yelling at the TV or singing Rocky Top at the top of their lungs.

Above all else, Papa would count as his greatest accomplishment his close-knit family. From the time she was his high school sweetheart, he adored his wife Barb with absolute devotion. Papa's love for his daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren knew no bounds. He reveled in their achievements and happiness. He cherished the unbreakable bond they shared and took great joy in witnessing the love they have for each other.

The family would like to thank a few people outside of the family. First, he has been cared for by a group of wonderful caregivers. In particular, Sandra Mack, aka Momma Bear, Jasmine Sumter, and Eneyda Ochoa cared for Papa as if he was one of their own . All of the nurses and doctors throughout his many hospitalizations loved him and treated him with care and compassion all the while enjoying his wonderful sense of humor. A special thank you to Dr. Kline and Dr. Robards of Roper Hospital. Their brilliance as doctors allowed him to be with his family for an additional seven years. By God's grace, he was a medical miracle. Dr. Robards once commented "Jim Kaatz was our magnum opus, one of our best works."

Papa's memory will forever be etched in the hearts of his daughters, son-in-laws, grandchildren, and all those fortunate enough to have known him. His legacy of love, dedication, and patriotism will continue to inspire and guide them through life's journey. As they gather to celebrate his life and mourn his loss, they find comfort in knowing that Papa's love will forever bind them together, creating a lasting testament to the remarkable man he was.

Jim "Papa" Kaatz is survived by his wife, Barbara Kaatz of Seabrook Island, SC; daughters and son-in-laws Linda and John Sullivan of Maryville,TN; Kathi and Kyle Mitchell of Rockwell, NC; Susan and Dean Brockob of Flower Mound,TX; and Jennifer and Bob Toohill of Golden,CO. He is also survived by ten loving grandchildren with three spouses and two great grandchildren. Other surviving family members are his nephew Bill Kaatz and wife Donna, niece Lori MacRae and her husband Mark and "honorary daughter and granddaughter" Elaine and Cara as well as the "adopted family" of Ed and Aly Casey.

There is no service planned at this time. A Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later date.

If you would like to honor Jim's memory with a donation, the family request that in lieu of flowers you make a donation in his honor to the Pride of the Southland Marching Band at the University of Tennessee, an organization that represents so many things he held dear. A link is provided below. 

Memorial gifts can be made online at or checks can be made payable to the UT Foundation and sent to:

UT Foundation, Attn: UT Band/Brian Hardy, 629 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James "Jim" Frederick Kaatz, please visit our flower store.


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