I know there is another Jimmy Dean but this one I met my first year at Boston College Law School. He was from the Brooklyn unless my memory fails me or was it Bronx. I know to New Yorkers they are as different as night and day but I always get them confused.
He had graduated from Manhattan College and was on some type of scholarship to the law school. He was smart. It was said that he had a photographic memory. It seemed that must have been true because he seemed to be having fun while I plugged away. He was one of the top in the class. He was on Law Review. He’d be the last person you would ever think would be in that position because he was always smiling and casual about the whole law school thing.
He came up to Boston with his new bride Peggy. They had a small apartment on Commonwealth Avenue into which often squeezed quite a group of us with our female friends for a night of cards, some table games, or plain foolishness as we quaffed down the beer and made merry. Peggy was always a brilliant hostess with her Brooklyn accent and quick wit. Nothing fazed her or Jimmy even when it seemed the only way to make room for another person into the apartment was to take the wallpaper off the wall or perhaps put their first child outside on the fire escape.
After graduation Jimmy went to work for a labor law firm in Manhattan. He and “the bride” moved out to Metuchen, New Jersey. Jimmy commuted into the city which never was fun even back in those long ago days. He worked representing employers and was an expert in that area. it was good he was.
I stayed in Boston and worked at a small office on State Street. Among our clients was Teamsters Local 122 under the business manager Ralph Gilman who was to say the least a character. He was always planning some escapade. Ralph would call me to tell me of his plans and ask if it was okay. I’d listen and say I’d get back to him. I would then call Jimmy to find out the answer because otherwise it would have taken me hours or days to learn it. With Ralph I knew I needed to get back to him as soon as possible for he would take no response as approval. Jimmy would always patiently explain the applicable law to me no matter how long it took. For that I was eternally grateful.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the only contact I had with Jimmy. A member of the group that gathered in his apartment was Joe Ryan the top guy in the law school class. Not only was he brilliant he was kind and generous. He bought a cabin on Pawtuckaway Lake in New Hampshire and and named it Camp Rye’n Water. He invited Jimmy, myself and others such as the McGuirks, Schmidts, and Pothiers from the apartment group to stay there on him for a week or more. For me that was a godsend being able to take the kids away for vacation where we had a lake with all the amenities. Jimmy, Peggy and there four kids, our family with three kids, and others would squeeze into the cabin for the week. (Photo above is part of group at a much later reunion. . Jimmy in bottom right in red, Peggy is behind him as she always was. Photo to left shows the earlier days.) Every Thursday night Joe would show up with lobsters. A real treat.
Those were happy days. Jimmy eating his first lobster dinner was following the others on how to do it: first the legs and then the tail. Having finished them he looked at what was on his plate and said greedily: “And now the body!” He was crushed when informed there was nothing in there to eat.
We shared cooking duties. I had the pork chops one night. I ruined them by overcooking so they looked like charcoal bits. When I brought them to the table Jimmy who liked to eat heartily at the end of a day on the water seeing them was heartbroken. It was the only time I saw him down.
After our Pawtuckaway days and my job change we didn’t see or communicate much although Joe Ryan kept us up to date. I last saw Jimmy at my daughter’s wedding in New York City in October, 2011, the day of the October blizzard. He was living somewhere on the Jersey Shore and had a boat. He seemed fine and happy as I’d always known him. He was leaving early which was unlike him but I figured it was because of the blizzard. Later I’d hear he wasn’t leaving his house much anymore. Just the other day I asked my wife wondering how he was doing. She said she’d call Joe to check. Before she did Joe sent us the news of his passing.
It’s strange how even though I don’t stay in touch the passing of old friends takes me back. I remember the fun and laughs and goodness in the person and regret that I let so much of it slip away from me by failing to stay in touch. I resolve to do better because at times like this you realize the opportunity you had is gone forever.
Rest in peace Jimmy. You were great fun.