RIP Jimmy Dean: A Good Guy Passes On

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.



13 replies on “RIP Jimmy Dean: A Good Guy Passes On”

  1. Matt,
    So sorry to read about your friend’s passing. Sounds like he was a great guy.
    We had best keep up with old friends or one day we learn we’ve missed the chance and we’re left with sorrowful regrets and hopefully fond memories.

  2. Sorry to hear of your loss, Matt. Fond memories are a wonderful thing. They keep me going.

    That is a fine poem, Bill. I have lost three great friends in the last two months.
    The line “More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world” is striking. I’m hanging on to it right now. Its a good one.

    1. Sorry for your losses, too Abe. Hope the poem continues to bring a glimmer of consolation. It has for me, when I think of persons lost and loves lost.

      Time does not heal all wounds, but it lessens the hurt, when we see things in perspective and recognize our common humanity . . .that we all will live and die and lose loved ones along the way . . . .the poem says it all . . . .and I sense none of us are resigned to it, but will press on

      Like Dylan Thomas’s great poem, “To my father while dying” (from memory:). . .”Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave towards the end of day, rage, rage against the dying of the light”
      and I like the line: “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight and learn to late they grieved it on its way, they do not go gentle into that good night, And you my dear father there on that sad height, curse, bless me now with your fierce tears I pray, do not go gentle into that good, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

      Sometimes it’s the dying of the lights of civilization and civility and liberty and freedom that we rage against.

  3. Remembering part of Bunzo’s comment on the passing of his friend that ends “….and the memory of his passing will rob you of your pleasures.” Bunzo could certainly nail it! Another Savvy great gone.

  4. Good writing. As Faulkner noted in Requiem For A Nun , ” The past is never dead. It is not even past.”

  5. Matt, sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.

    This poem, somehow, brings me consolation. It was read by a young actress to an aging star, Sam Elliot, in the recent movie, “Hero”

    by Enda St. Vincent Millay

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    1. Bill:

      Thanks – great poem. From Wikipedia about Vincent: ” Edna (who called herself “Vincent”), Norma Lounella (born 1893), and Kathleen Kalloch (born 1896), moved from town to town, living in poverty. Cora [their mother] travelled with a trunk full of classic literature, including Shakespeare and Milton, which she read to her children. . . . Millay described her life in New York as “very, very poor and very, very merry.””

      She wrote:

      My candle burns at both ends;
      It will not last the night;
      But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
      It gives a lovely light!

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