Fundraiser set to help Monroe minister
James Abee wasn’t supposed to still be alive. Two years ago, doctors told the Monroe minister that he had months to live, thanks to an aggressive form of leukemia. But Abee, who is the founding pastor for Living Waters Ministries in Monroe, continues to fight.
“He’s a tough cat,” Abee’s son James Jr. said. “He turns 69 on Sunday, while the doctors said he wasn’t supposed to make it more than two months (after the diagnosis).”
Now in the advanced stages of the disease, Abee’s medical bills are piling up however. Four rounds of chemotherapy damaged his heart, which now requires medication. Doctors also attempted a bone marrow transplant to eliminate the leukemia, which ran the bills up, plus the family now gets a bill for $13,000 a week in blood and platelets.
To help cover the pastor’s medical bills, Rack’Em Pub and Billards, 1898 Windsor Square Drive in Matthews, will hold a tournament June 25 at noon. The $20 entry fee per person, along with any donations, will go to help the family.
James Abee Sr., or ‘Pops’ as he’s known, isn’t a stranger to the world of pool. He and his son have sold billiards supplies for the last few years, coming to most of the tournaments held at Rack’Em. Developing an interest in pool cues, he started studying sticks, how they were made and how to determine the best quality.
“I’ve been shooting pool for 20 years,” Abee Jr. said. “Dad would come hang out and I talked him into playing.”
Three times a year, the American Pool Association holds a city tournament, consisting of 80 tables and hundreds of people, who compete for a trip to Vegas. Since his start, ‘Pops’, his son and grandsons have played as a team, winning three trips to Vegas over the last 15 years. The latest trip happened in 2010, the team won the wild card draw and made it to Vegas. He also sets up a booth at the tournaments, selling sticks and cases. At each tournament, he gives away one stick and case to someone he feels can’t afford one. Funds from the business are split, with the family taking what they need to get by and donating the rest to Living Waters Ministries.
“In every tourney Rack’Em has had, Pops offers a stick and a case,” Rhonda Hull, an employee at Rack’Em who has known ‘Pops’ and his family for more than 15 years, said. “We never have to ask him, he always just gives out of his heart. Even when he was at Carolinas Medical Center, he told his son Jimmy to make sure he gave us a stick for my Bailey (fundraising) tournament.”
Wanting to help a man who gave so much of himself to others, Hull put together the June 25 fundraiser.
“I have been at Rack’Em for 20 years and we are a family,” Hull said. “When you are around people for years and years they become a part of you. We just want to give back a little to Pops and his family for all he has done for so many of us, not just at Rackem but the pool community.”
James Jr. said the family couldn’t put into words how much the help and support from Hull and the pool community meant to them.
“I can’t say enough, they stepped up to do what they could for my dad,” James Jr. said. “These guys, it’s turned out to be a heck of a family.”
A life helping others
James Abee began studying to be a minister in 1979, telling his family and friends he felt the calling to start his own church. Soon after, he founded Living Waters Ministries, the first church in South Carolina and the second in Monroe.
“He said his church is built on pool sticks and donut sales and car washes and the help of friends who gave their time and talents to build it,” Hull said.
As the cancer progressed, Abee had to turn over most of the weekly preaching to his assistant pastor, but still tries to get in the pulpit as much as possible, his son said. In April, doctors from Duke Hospital told Abee and the family his cancer had spread too far and sent him home, saying there was nothing else they could do.
“Pops made a comment when he found out he was being sent home from Duke (hospital) that stuck with me,” Hull said. “He said ‘don’t be sad for me, I’ve been waiting for years to meet Jesus’. What better thing than to close your eyes and wake up in the arms of Jesus!”
James Jr. remembers his dad as an avid boxer when he was younger, who took part in amateur Golden Gloves tournaments. He also competed as a bowler, traveling from state to state.
“All his light, Dad’s been fighting a tough battle,” James Jr. said. “He’s still doing it now, beating the odds every single day.”
For more information about the Rack’Em pool tournament, call 704-847-7665.