It started out just like any other Monday at the office. I walked in, turned on my computer, put my lunch in the freezer, hung my coat in the closet, and checked e-mail and voice mail. By the time I'd checked all my messages, it was 9 o'clock, and the phones were starting to ring.
Melanie called in, saying she'd be out sick, and asked to speak with Day. I passed her to Day and took the next phone call. It was Doug Psick calling with the sad news that Jim had died the day before.
I couldn't believe it. I kept saying, "No!" I couldn't imagine a world without Jim.
Doug told me that he was on his way out to the funeral home to make the plans, and that he would call back later with details about the funeral service. After hanging up with Doug, I called out to Day, asking her to pass Melanie back to me, that it was urgent. In the meantime, Terry called in. I told her the news, and burst into tears. She was just as shocked as I had been. She asked whether I'd told Melanie; I replied that I was about to tell her.
Day passed Melanie back to me, and I told her. She, too, was shocked. I wondered about flowers. Melanie suggested we wait until the next day, when she would be in, and we would have a better idea of the funeral arrangements. I agreed.
Telling the rest of my co-workers was just as hard. Nobody could believe it. The big friendly teddy bear of a man with a heart of gold was gone?! Together we went through nearly an entire box of tissues, and we reminisced about the times we'd shared with Jim.
I remembered meeting Jim at my first convention, Chicago 1994. I'd been assigned to work the registration office, and was eager to meet the people I'd only talked with on the phone. He made me feel welcome and comfortable in spite of my sinusitis and laryngitis. I was impressed with his caring manner and gentleness, even with the grumpiest people in the registration line. And I was thoroughly awed by his ability to handle and manipulate numbers. (Math never was one of my strong points.) I also learned that we shared something Norwegian ancestry!
We reminisced about the times he would call in to the office, ask to speak to one of us, and, when asked his name, would say, "A friend." (Usually this happened when the phones were ringing off the hook.) I recalled the times when his grandchildren were born, and how he'd answer his office phone by saying, in a voice bursting with pride, "Grandpa Jim here!" Each picture of him from convention brought up more memories.
And now he's gone, leaving us with a gaping hole in the ACB family tree and a big pair of shoes to fill. He also leaves us with many happy memories. May his memory be a comfort to us all.
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