By Jay Meisel
James Preston Tucker, a psychic by trade and a columnist for Hometown News for nearly 10 years, came into the world as a surprise, a niece recalled Monday.
"And for the remainder of his life, he remained a surprise at what he did," said Ellen Tucker, the niece.
Mr. Tucker, 73, who wrote "Spirit Guide" and "Star Scopes," was found deceased on April 11 at his home in Jensen Beach, a Martin County Sheriff's Office report said.
The house had no signs of forced entry, the report said.
Neighbors told investigators that Mr. Tucker had been ill and bed-ridden around the time of his death.
Funeral and burial arrangements for Mr. Tucker have not been finalized or announced.
Steve Erlanger, publisher of Hometown News, expressed sadness about Mr. Tucker's death.
"Everyone from the Hometown News family was terribly saddened by the news of James' passing," he said. "James has been part of our family since the very beginning. Tammy Raits (managing editor of Hometown News) and several of our crew, and I had worked with James back in the old Forum days. When we knew we were going to start Hometown News, we knew James had to be a part of it."
Mr. Tucker was born on Nov. 29, 1938, in the small town of Rocheport, Mo., on the Missouri river.
"Jim was a surprise baby," his niece said.
His oldest sister, Anna Margaret Stroud, was more than 20 years old at the time of his birth, she said.
His father, Henry Dewitt Tucker, was a Methodist minister, she said.
"Ladies of the church shared with me that she (his mother, Kathleen Estelle Munro Tucker) was not showing at all (when she went to the doctor)," Ellen Tucker said. "The doctor was ready to do an appendectomy when he realized she was in labor."
She said the birth also was unusual because his mother carried him behind, instead of in front of her internal organs.
When the birth occurred at the parsonage, the whole town knew because the walls were thin, Ms. Tucker said.
"Ladies gathered up baby clothes and diapers and that was his welcome into the world," she added.
Besides the circumstances surrounding his birth, another unusual event involving a doctor occurred when as a young man he and his friends played around with a pistol, his niece said.
He accidentally shot himself in the leg and a doctor had to use a new medical technique he had just learned at a conference to save Mr. Tucker's leg, the niece said.
Much of his life was spent growing up on a farm in Columbia, Mo., and in 1957, Mr. Tucker graduated from Hickman High School, Ms. Tucker said.
Although he got a bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri, working in that field was not part of his future, his niece said.
Mr. Tucker moved to California in the early 1960s and became public relations director for Taco Bell, she said.
He left the job, but later regretted that, saying at the time he didn't believe Taco Bell was going to make it, Ms. Tucker said.
During the ensuing years, he sold real estate, did various types of jobs and sought success as a musician and country music songwriter in Nashville, his niece said.
Although he "was a good singer and a good guitar player," it was tough to compete, she said.
He also was an architectural welder and some of his work is still evident in Columbia, she said.
It was believed he had been named after a millionaire in Texas and Ms. Tucker believes he was influenced by that, she said.
"He wanted to be somebody very famous and he wanted to be a millionaire - and it never happened," she said. "I think through the years he recreated himself many times in his attempts to be famous and somebody important."
But although he may have not achieved the fame he wanted, Mr. Erlanger said he became well known.
"He had followers from all the country," Mr. Erlanger said. "People that read his column or the horoscopes while vacationing somewhere along the east coast of Florida would follow his writings on our web site. He had fans and admirers that just waited each week to read his words."
For nearly 20 years, Mr. Tucker, for whatever reason, lost contact with his family.
When his mother died in 1984, family members searched for him without avail, his niece said.
But in the early 2000s, he regained contact with family members, who were surprised to learn he was running the Mystic Chronicle in Jensen Beach, Fla., and that he did palm readings and retrogression hypnosis where people learn about their past through the technique.
"It was a far step from Midwestern life in what he was doing in Florida and a far step from growing up as the son of a Methodist minister," his niece said.
She said she believes he often wore purple as a tribute to his mother, who was into gardening and grew flowers that were purple.
"I knew he was referring to his mother and how positive she was and how giving and loving she was," Ms. Tucker said.
But while some may remember him as a palm reader, a columnist or a musician, Mr. Erlanger recalls him as a friend.
"James became a friend over the years," he said. "He was especially fond of my son, Austin; he called him the little wizard. I knew he took Austin's passing very hard.
"James, I'm sure, had a colorful past, but for the 16 years that we knew him, he was nothing but a quality guy, good-hearted, generous and giving. All of us, as well as our readers, are going to miss his words of wisdom and insight each week. May God bless him," Mr. Erlanger said.
He's survived by one brother, Dan Tucker of Goodlettsville, Tenn. He was preceded in death by two sisters, Ms. Stroud and Mary Elizabeth Devore and two brothers, Frank Tucker and Dewitt Tucker Jr., who died as an infant.
"Jim felt he was reincarnated from Dewitt," his niece said.