When I started working at Ford Motors, I met my first giant. He was a lead in the I.T. department and he was known as Big Jim. Jim stood about 6’9” and looked similar to Andre the Giant. Jim slumped to try to bring his height down to our atmosphere. Jim was in his 50’s and had white curly hair. Jim’s handshake would engulf any hand he ever shook. I never could understand how he managed to only type one key at a time. He was menacing in appearance, so he compromised by always having a joke ready. His voice boomed with deep resonance. He was a notorious tease, yet it was always in good fun. He was adamant about following procedure, but he could also find loopholes in procedures when it would benefit others. The employees at Sterling Plant either loved him or despised him. He was definitely one of a kind, and he was my friend.
Whenever I needed help, Jim was one person I could rely on. One day in the winter of the late 1990’s, on my way to work, a truck driving next to me had a sheet of ice fly off its hood and shattered my windshield. My insurance did not cover it; I only had the bare minimum in order to be legal. It was a few days before payday and I did not have the funds for a replacement window. Jim had heard me at my desk calling around trying to find a place that would fix my car that day and let me pay them on Friday. No such luck. I went to do a service call out on the floor, and when I returned to my desk, I found $500 sitting on my keyboard.
At this point, I did not know Jim that well. Even though I had been working in the plant for a couple years, I had just moved into the main office about a month earlier. Jim looked over at me from his desk and said, “Better get that window fixed. I don’t want you calling in tomorrow that your car’s out of commission.” I told him I would pay him back on Friday and he said, “What? Ain’t you got no other bills to pay? Just give me what you can when you can. There’s no hurry. Make it easy on yourself.”
That was how Big Jim was. In 2003, Big Jim took a buy out and retired. He was still in his 50’s. We remained friends. I would stop over his house every couple months or so. His wife, Beverly, was on dialysis. Jim was constantly taking care of her even though his own health started to fail. He underwent brain surgery because of his gigantism disease, but he kept his humor and good nature through it all.
The last time I saw Jim was in November at Beverly’s funeral. Diabetes had taken his lover and companion. His legs could no longer support his body and he was in a wheel chair. The big man looked small for the first time since I met him.
Throughout the years, Jim kept in regular contact. We talked on the phone every month or so, and we exchanged emails several times a week. Most emails were jokes or what is called “viral videos” of short funny movies. Not once did he mention his deteriorating health. In January he was hospitalized for a week, and when released, he was given a home care worker to help with his daily needs.
Last Sunday Jim felt chest pains and called 911. He suffered a heart attack. When the ambulance arrived the emergency workers revived him and took him to the hospital. In the hospital, Jim suffered another attack. This time more severe and he did not survive. He will be laid out on Friday at the same funeral home where his Beverly had just been. He will be buried on Saturday. These will be the last days I will ever see Jim and I miss him already.