Good Neighbor Jim

The sort of meal Jim liked, The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
The sort of lamb meal Jim liked, The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

I met Jim and Angie 23 years ago when I moved into our 1928 bungalow the week before Christmas, newly separated from my husband and two months pregnant.  My father had introduced me to Jim and Angie.  Within a short time, I loved them too.

Jim’s father Vic had started the family plumbing and heating business, and now Jim and three of his five sons ran the business.  They were master heating and plumbing specialists.  They had installed the gas-water heating system in our house.  More years down the road they installed a new compatible gas-water heating air conditioning system.  Getting rid of window air conditioning units proved a welcome relief. Throughout the years, Jim checked on our a/c, our boiler, and offered helpful advice on home maintenance.

Of German extraction, Jim had a dry, wry sense of humor that always brought a smile to my face.  He reflected a “calls ‘em as I sees ‘em” sort of attitude.  Throughout the seasons, Jim could be found hovering over his large gas grill.  He and his family remain the largest group of carnivores I know, and I say this most affectionately.  Nearly every Saturday night his five in-town children and their families would pull up in front of our houses for a family dinner.  This generally consisted of Jim’s grilled chicken, or pork, or sausage, or ribs, corn, Angie’s pasta and meatballs, a daughter-in-law’s salad, another’s homemade pies, and the sons’ drinks.  Invariably, Jim would hand us a plate of grilled meat and corn over the fence. His own recipe for barbecue was finger licking good, and I am not even a barbecue connoisseur.  We became excellent friends with his son Terry and his family.  My daughter and Terry’s daughter have been close pals almost since birth.  We have also shared many a birthday cake with Jim and Angie’s family.

What impressed me most these past years was Jim’s sense of family, which reminded me of my own.  He and Angie became like grandparents to my daughter.  Our families became intertwined throughout the years, and I reveled in having such tremendous neighbors of kindness, joy, and integrity.

In the past years, Jim had become increasingly hard of hearing, though I’m sure he wouldn’t admit it.  He persisted in climbing up a tall ladder to work on his second-story windows.  In fact, last week he had climbed up that ladder to paint cedar shingles white.  Some may have viewed him as irascible at age 82, but my perception was that he’s “got a lot of livin’ to do!”  He was always a man in a hurry, an active citizen, a tireless Catholic Church champion, and an inveterate golfer.

Last Sunday afternoon sirens shattered the Sunday serenity.  EMS and a firefighter truck pulled up.  Men hurriedly entered Jim and Angie’s house with a stretcher.

Jim died Wednesday night from a massive stroke.

We took the baked rigatoni, Chianti, and chocolate chip cookies we made to Angie this afternoon.

Jim’s champagne-colored sedan is still parked in front of the house, but it still feels like the world tilted

Ciao for now.

2 thoughts on “Good Neighbor Jim

  1. Juliet Markovich

    What a wonderful tribute to Jim – he and Angie have been extended family to you and Anjelika for years – I know ya’ll will mis him.

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