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Couple named Rockhound(s) of the Year

The adventurous hobby rocks.

Jim Bailey likes to joke by mainly poking fun at himself. One of his favorite lines is, “The reason Kathy married me is because she likes old fossils.” Well, that last part is certainly a true statement.

The Xenia couple has been recognized as Rockhound(s) of the Year by the Midwest Federation of Mineralogical and Geological Societies. He likes old fossils, also, as well as rocks, minerals, geodes and arrowheads.

“It was a pleasant surprise to receive this award. Jim and I love rockhounding,” said Kathy Bailey. “It’s always an adventure when we go treasure hunting, make new friends and explore different parts of the country.”

They were awarded a certificate of appreciation for this honor.

“The Dayton Gem and Mineral Society’s successful nomination of Jim and Kathy for this award was based on their many years of dedication to rockhounding, and promoting interest and education in geology, mineralogy and lapidary,” said DGMS vice president Joe Brafford.

Over the years, the Baileys have collected here in Ohio, and the nearby states of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. But they’ve also traveled to Arkansas, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming.

Sometimes their hobby can be a little more than just adventurous.

“My husband was struck by lightning and so avoids situations that may be dangerous. But it doesn’t always work. Such as the time we were collecting geodes and it started raining heavily,” said Kathy Bailey. “Here we are sitting in puddles of water with lightning bolts all around us. If that is not enough, a big snake was slithering about 10 feet away. It’s a good thing neither of us is afraid of snakes.”

Jim Bailey’s interest in rocks started at a young age of 16, when his grandfather introduced him to collecting rocks, minerals, fossils, and arrowheads. As his hobby grew, he attended various gem and mineral shows near his Dayton home, and bought as many specimens as his finances would allow. He worked as a pattern maker, and later owned his own business. He was able to expand his hobby and purchased equipment for cutting, polishing, and tumbling.

After his first wife, Alma, passed away in 1994, he donated all of his rock-related equipment and many specimens to the Beavercreek High School. When he met Kathy, she was already a long-standing member of the Dayton Gem and Mineral Society and he decided to join as well. His old hobby had been rejuvenated by her excitement in rock collecting.

“Born in Hungary, Kathy came to the U.S. after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution,” said Brafford. “Her interest in collecting started after seeing a specimen of azurite at the Mammoth Caves gift shop in Kentucky.”

Since 1970, Kathy Bailey has held the positions of field trip coordinator, treasurer, secretary, vice-president, and president of DGMS. The Baileys are also members of Dry Dredgers, Blue Grass Gem & Mineral Society, Three Rivers Gem & Mineral Society, and the Mountain Area Gem & Mineral Association.

“Over the past 10 to 15 years, Jim and Kathy have donated hundreds, if not thousands, of rock, mineral and fossil specimens to numerous grade schools and high schools throughout Beavercreek and Xenia school districts,” said Brafford. “The DGMS views both Jim and Kathy as two of the most respected and essential members of our club and both are certainly considered to be the lifeblood of the organization.”

Jim Bailey recently celebrated his 83rd birthday. Unfortunately, at the present time he is in Soin Medical Center. He has a versa infection that the doctors can’t seem to get under control. On the plus side, he has been moved from intensive care.

“Joe Brafford and John Steidel from the club played the accordion for him to liven his spirits yesterday, with regular songs and some Christmas music,” said Kathy Bailey.

Contact this contributing writer at

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