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Off Into The Sunrise — A Tribute To Jim Johnson

As the years of one’s life pass by, you consider yourself lucky if you get a good boss at work. The same goes for when you come across an older guy who can mentor you and show you the ropes in some new skill or discipline. And, of course, when someone comes into your life who becomes a friend — a good friend — it’s a true blessing.

But if you get all three rolled into one person you’ve got a real treasure. A trifecta. A place in the Winners' Circle of Life.

That’s who Jim Johnson was to me. Back in 2017, when things were going not too well for me and I needed good employment, Jim recruited me to come to work for him at a legal services company. Meeting the man was literally a life-saving event. One that led to a very interesting career and a re-connection with American culture I never knew was possible.

A real ornery Texan transplanted in rural Virginia, Jim was a character right out of a low-budget-but-well-written movie from decades ago. He was a retired law enforcement officer who had seen more than his share of real-life action that would have sucked the humanity out of most people. In spite of all that, Jim always had something good to say about you and was a never-ending river of encouragement and good cheer. Both a father and a grandfather whose family was the center of his life, Jim was also a kid at heart who loved to tinker with cars and loved all things old, antique, and full of history. He was a true, flag waving American male of the kind that is seldom seen anymore -- except on the endangered species list.

Jim was also a fighter. Through and through. A never-give-up type many men think they are but few possess the strength to pull off. But as everyone knows, just like in the movies, all fighters eventually meet their match.

Sadly, that’s what happened to Jim last Thursday, October 3rd. After a long, hard-fought battle, our hero was taken down by a real, nasty bad guy named Cancer. And the world is now a little less safe, a little less interesting, and a little less fun.

But the screenplay doesn't end there.

As is the case with many true Texans, Jim decided to leave the scene with a bit of drama and flair. No conventional funeral and burial surrounded by sad friends in dark suits for him. No Sir-ee. So Jim decided on something with a bit more . . . panache.

A few days ago, Jim’s widow climbed aboard an antique biplane near their home. The plane took off, rose up into the clear blue sky, and she proceeded to scatter Jim’s ashes over the rural Virginia countryside and the winding, wild, timeless Shenandoah River.

A fitting goodbye befitting a true Texan, who came to love Virginia and call it home. And he's now an eternal part of the countryside he loved so much.

Rest in Peace, Jim. You’ve earned it.

Thank you.

Roll credits.

© 2019 Thomas Michael Caldwell. All Rights Reserved. This written work is not to be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author. Links to this page from other websites is permitted and encouraged.