My friend Jim Van Sickle is dead.

Sorrowful. The knowledge of his death has affected me.

Jim was an up north friend. The Utica area. We first met in the mid 1960s. There was an instantaneous bonding/attraction. We continued to be close till sometime in the early 1980s. Then for whatever reason, we drifted apart. This occurs with relationships.

Jim was 88 at the time of his death. His wife Sara survives, plus a daughter Joyce and some other child/children and grandchildren.

Sara was a charming woman. Lovable. Tough. The stand up type.

I loved them both.

Jim owned a motel at the time we first met. Van’s Motel. In a Utica suburb, New Hartford. Nothing fancy. Sort of a strip building with 4 or 5 units on each side of the office. There was a small apartment upstairs where Jim and Sara lived.

They worked hard at the motel. Did their own washing and cleaning. Both did it. The motel was a shared responsibility.

Sometimes God does good things. Jim experienced one of those things.

A major shopping center was to be built. Jim’s motel sat in the center of one of two main entrances. It was  a natural. Jim scored! Made some money!

Jim and Sara then went into the grocery store business. A neighborhood grocery store. A pound of bologna and loaf of bread type.

The store was part of a two story brick building on a corner in a middle class neighborhood. The store downstairs. Jim and Sara lived in the upstairs apartment.

Jim was a street smart old time business man. The time is around 1980. Newspapers were cheap to buy. A nickel or dime as I recall. Every thursday, Jim would buy an extremely large number of newspapers. Then he and Sara would cut all the grocery coupons out.

The grocery chains at the time were playing games with their vendors. The grocery chain would buy back the coupons at a discounted price and then charge them to the vendor for their true value. Jim might sell a certain brand of coupons back at $ .25 a piece. The grocery chain would receive $ .50 or more from the vendor.

A win/win situation.

Jim did not want the money. He wanted groceries to stock the shelves in his small grocery store. So the grocery chain gave him equal value in can goods, toilet paper, etc. for the coupons.

Time moved on and the grocery business became a bit too much for Jim and Sara. They sold the store and building. They then purchased a lovely one family brick home two blocks away. For the first time in their lives, they had nothing to do. Sara became a house wife and grandmother full time. Jim had a little shack in the back where he puttered around.

For twenty five years Jim and I were close. Talked to each other by phone at least once a day. Visited with each other to sit and talk 3-4 times a week. Then for no reason at all, we drifted. I still loved him and I am sure he loved me. But the communication was gone. Since the 1980s, Jim and I have only visited on two occasions.

Jim and Sara were good parents. Especially as concerned their daughter Joyce. The sun rose and set on her.

Joyce was shot while in the store one evening. Sara was away at the time. The bullet did a number on her. Traveled through several organs. She was on the operating table. It was questionable whether she would survive.

Sara was flying back from a trip. She was in the air. She knew nothing of the shooting. Of course, I was at the hospital with Jim. Jim said you (me) have to go pick Sara up at the airport…..I have to stay here.

I went. I met Sara as she came of the plane. She knew instantaneously something was wrong. Why was I meeting the plane? She thought some thing had happened to Jim.

I sat her down and told her in a calm simple straight forward manner that Joyce had been shot, she was presently being operated on, and there was a quation as to whether she would survive.

Sara looked me in the eye. Stood and calmly said let’s go. There was not another word said between us on the half hour trip to the hospital.

A tough woman.

Joyce survived. Is a mother and I assume a grandmother today.

I do not know if Jim is of any interest to you. He was to me. He was a friend. A true friend.

This is going to sound strange. We talk about meeting our parents and grandparents again when we die. I would want Jim there, also. I would enjoy spending eternity with him.

Enjoy your day!




8 comments on “A FRIEND IS DEAD

  1. Lou,

    What a wonderful story. I know the world seems emptier now just knowing that your friend has left it. It’s rare to have friends like the two of you were. You’ll see him again, I’m sure of it.

    • I really enjoyed reading this Lou, It brought back some memories that had faded away for me. I am one of the grandchildren, with two of his great grandchildren, one of them named Sara after you know who…

  2. Jim is of interest to me because he is your friend and your simple, yet eloquent remembrance of him left me feeling like I at least had the pleasure of shaking his hand. Sorry for your loss; I’m sure Jim would be smiling at the stories you both could share.

    Thanks for sharing another mental picture with us from your life’s album. As always, all the best to you and yours, sir.

    Billy Schott

  3. Hello “Uncle” Lou,
    Thank you for sharing. Your story was 100% right on. It brought back memories and made me cry. Gramps loved you a lot and always spoke highly of you. I miss him terribly and feel an emptiness that I have NEVER felt before. It is especially hard to watch Grandma Dolly (Sara). They would have been married 70 years this April. Sending a big hug for someone who was obviously special to both of us!

  4. Thanks for the kind words about Dad, he was a unique person who had many faults, but working hard and providing for his family were his highest priorties. For 67 years dad was a phone call away for advice on anything especially something that needed repair. He still talked of his friend Lou, always with fondness. Ron

  5. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Jim, but Joyce Gouse is my friend. Being able to see my friend’s father through your eyes was a sweet experience that I won’t forget. Thank you for writing this story about Jim’s life and your friendship. I appreciate your words. Christine

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