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The Legacy of "Big Jim"


I’ve been thinking about this post all week. As we all say, life gets in the way. Now its Friday and I haven’t written a word of it.

This week, our community laid to rest a man who supported us, cheered us on and believed in us. My first memories of Jim were probably somewhere around 20 years ago. When I was in high school, whenever my twin sister and I had to sell something for school we always started with Mr. Jim who worked at a local industry.

You see, Jim supported the school and the students in the school. It didn’t really matter if he needed the ad in the program or the make-your-own-pizza kit. He wanted to support us. My sister and I were not the only ones who sold ads and whatnots to Jim. We were just lucky we got there first a lot of times.

A few years later Jim would hear about a Rotary program happening in high schools. He decided our small rural school needed that program, so he started it. Today, countless students have received scholarships and made valuable connections because of that Interact program. In fact, other larger schools have started similar programs built off the model Jim started.

Some years after high school, I returned to my hometown and started the Chamber of Commerce. I was young and had no experience, but I had energy and somehow convinced the city board I could do the job. Jim had no doubts. He was on my first board of directors. If we need sponsorship for a program, Jim’s industry would support us. If we needed volunteers, Jim, and often his wife Patsy, would be there.

Jim was the HR manager for the industry where he worked. While he supported the school and the community, he also supported his people. When the Chamber of Commerce started a leadership program, he signed up 2-3 of his employees every year. He believed in them and wanted them to succeed.

He wasn’t the guy who just had ideas and asked someone else to manage those ideas. He jumped in with both feet. And he left a legacy. He gave kids in a rural school opportunities and he wrote countless letters of recommendation.

Hearing of his death this week made me think about what legacy I am leaving. Will the lives of others be better because they knew me? Did I follow through on the “great ideas” or did I suggest them and hope someone else would do it because I am too busy?

Our community will miss Jim. We’ve already missed him through the years of his prolonged illness. I hope his life will inspire others to participate in their community, their family, their school a little more.

Will you do something in Jim’s memory today? Buy a t-shirt from your school cheerleaders. Volunteer with a group in your community that’s cleaning up or just making the community a better place. Find an opportunity for a high school student who needs some work or volunteer experience. Write a letter of recommendation for someone.

Most us can’t cure ebola or create peace in the Middle East, but we can do something right where we are. And we can leave a legacy.

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