Today is the anniversary of my brother Jim’s death. He died back in 1995 from AIDS and though that is now a very long time ago, it feels as if it was just a few years back. I wrote this reconstructed obituary on the request of one of Jim’s classmates who wanted to share it with others at their 50th high school reunion.
I would like to add that I can always remember the day Jim died because the night before, my family (Ray and our three daughters) and my little brother Sam were sitting in Jim’s bedroom with him. He had been lying in a coma for several days and we knew the time was drawing near to his death. Honoring his request, not to leave him alone, we were all sitting on the bed near him or in the chairs placed around the room. We were celebrating Sam’s birthday, which was October 26th. Suddenly, in a quiet moment, Jim’s voice rang out weakly and he sang, “Happy Birthday” to Sam. He didn’t open his eyes or even move anything but his mouth, but he made it clear that he was right there and had been listening to our conversation. We were surprised and pleased that he was still there with us. He died the next day.
Here is a glimpse into my brother Jim’s life. He was an interesting person who lived with passion. I loved him (still love him) very much.
My brother Jim’s high school class is having their 50th anniversary this Saturday and I was contacted to supply Jim’s obituary for a table honoring deceased classmates. I couldn’t find it; so I reconstructed it from memory. Here it is along with some pictures of Jim.
James Louis Leatherwood was born on December 9, 1946 and died October 27, 1995. He graduated from Bonham High School in 1964, attended Michigan State University for one year, then moved to California where he studied at San Francisco State University. In 1968, after a stint as a cook in Haight-Ashbury, Jim joined the Norwegian Merchant Marine and traveled all over the world. Upon his return, he moved to Texas where he finished his Bachelor’s degree at East Texas State University with a degree in chemistry.
Jim graduated from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth in 1976. He moved to Florida for his internship in Family Medicine and remained there until joining the Navy as a medical officer. He served in the Navy at both Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton, finally being honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Jim made his home in Los Angeles, CA where he set up a private practice in West Hollywood, first as a family physician and later as a successful laser surgeon.
Jim was an adventurer. He had a love of the ocean, particularly the Pacific. He owned a series of ocean-going sailboats, which he sailed as far as Hawaii. Also, he learned to fly small aircraft and earned his pilot’s license. He owned his own airplane, routinely flying cross-country to Texas from LA.
Jim was active in the West Hollywood area and with his church, St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal church in Hollywood. He died from AIDS in 1995. He was surrounded with family and friends at the time of his death and is fondly remembered by all those who loved him.
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Oh Len, another tie between us. I’ve read passages from you before about JIm but I didn’t know he was a graduate of TCOM. He would have been in the third class, right? My late ex-husband (how’s that for convoluted) was founding faculty, chair of the surgical department, and I worked at TCOM for several years. I am an “osteopathic brat,” daughter of a longtime president of the Chicago College. My brother was clinical dean at TCOM but wouldn’t have known Jim since he didn’t get here until 1980. DOs are special, and the profession remains dear to my heart. In 1990 I was asked to write and 20-year history of TCOM and did.
Hey Judy, I just looked and your message did eventually come through. I just didn’t see it. Thank you for being such a steadfast reader of my blog. I appreciate it very much.