James Morehead Alfonte, 89, of Amarillo, died Saturday, August 18, 2012.
A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Children’s Chapel on Monday, August 27, 2012, at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.
He was a retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Army, and former Managing Director of the Amarillo Symphony.
Jim was born into an Army family to Brigadier General James Raymond and Mary Gates Redmond Alfonte in El Paso, Texas on May 5, 1923. Jim spent his life in various parts of the United States and overseas.
A 1945 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Alfonte served 21 years in the Army. He pursued Graduate work in English Literature at Columbia University in New York during his summers (’49-’52).
He was an instructor of English and American Literature, Speech and Grammar at West Point, and also served as an instructor at the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
As a Regular Army Officer, Jim served in Vietnam (’63-’64), the Pentagon (’54-’57), Korea (’54), and Japan (’45-’48). He had command of artillery batteries, and an engineer company. He also had 3 military assignments as adjutant, plus Chief of Security Division, U.S. Army, Hawaii.
He worked in military intelligence for 12 years. In Vietnam he briefed General Westmoreland daily, and on occasion Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins.
At Army Air Defense Command, he was protocol officer responsible for visits of foreign army officers to NORAD in Colorado Springs.
Jim transitioned to civilian life by becoming the business manager of the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra. He then arrived here in 1968 as the Amarillo Symphony’s first full-time business manager, and his first concert was the Symphony’s first in the new Civic Center Auditorium.
The Symphony then faced a $25,000 deficit with no cash reserves. Under Jim’s direction and after 16 years of operating in the black, the Symphony’s finances grew to a $500,000 operating budget with $1.3 million in reserves.
Jim once characterized his work as that of organizer and troubleshooter, and interference runner for the orchestra and conductor, making it possible for the conductor to concentrate on his main job – making music. He retired after 18 years on June 1, 1986.
Jim’s love affair with opera, and his admiration for opera singers, began when he accompanied his father to see Aida when he was only 8 years old. He treasured his early friendships with such singers as Rosa Ponselle, Elizabeth Rethberg, Mildred Miller and George Cehanovsky, to name only a few; and critics Paul Hume, Max de Schauensee and Robert Lawrence; and Edward Waters of the Music Division of The Library of Congress.
His writings on operatic history, musical analysis, recordings and interviews appeared as 15 articles in OPERA NEWS, the publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Jim was a worthy and opinionated critic.
Jim had one of the finest opera record collections in the world, which will be housed at the Archive of Recorded Sound or the Stanford University Music Library.
Jim was a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Rotary International, the Army-Navy Club, Washington, D.C.; Order of the Cincinnati, Washington, D.C.; Cercle-Sportif, Saigon, Vietnam; and Metropolitan Opera Guild, New York.
His sister, Mary Gates Alfonte Mitchell preceded him in death. He is survived by his niece, Susan Dobridge, and her husband, Mark, of Silver Springs, Maryland.
Jim was lovingly cared for by the staff at the Ware Living Center, and in particular the team on Juniper II. Anytime you hear the words, “candy” or “martini”, think of Jim.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 2490, Amarillo, TX 79105-2490.