Leave A Mark

“I love you, man!”

–  Jim Gordon (1946 – 2021), attorney, friend, father, leader, Purple Heart recipient — I could go on for hours…

I hope you’ll click on the link to my friend’s name.  The picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words — ironically probably about the number in “Gordo’s” obituary.  It’s long.  It’s irreverent.  It’s Jim.

I hope you’ll also forgive what may be a rambling post — I’ve written 2,000 words and edited it down to ~700 — still either too long or too short.  It’s a big life to try to capture.

Gordo passed away late last week, and in dying as he did in living, Jim Gordon left a mark of permanence, of depth, of difference-making value.  It is a mark I will wear proudly.

I owned my first home because of Gordo.  We were on the Board of The Make-A-Wish-Foundation, for which Jim once served as International Chairman.  Our closest running buddies were a banker, a home builder, and an extraordinarily wealthy software entrepreneur.  The four of them were sitting with me on the back porch of my rental home one day, pestering me to buy a house.

“I don’t want to live in town,” I said.  “I want an acreage with some trees, a creek, some elevation change….”

“Get in the car,” Gordo said, and off he strode.  Jim used a cane due to life-threatening injuries suffered in Viet Nam – and I still had to trot to keep up with him.

We drove out to an acreage.  11 acres.  Heavily wooded.  A creek.  Some elevation change.  “I’ve always wanted to sell half of this to someone who could really appreciate it,” Gordo said.  Doug, the banker, said, “I’ll lend you the money.”  Mike the home builder, said, “I’ll build the house.”  Dale, the wealthy software dude said, “I got nothing here, but I’ll come out for your parties!”

Before I knew it, Jim and I shared a tractor, an old garage, and the loving care for a few acres southeast of Lincoln, NE.  He planted five hundred new trees, I added a hundred more, a vegetable garden, and a tree house-ish structure.  I lived there, Jim lived there vicariously through me.  He knew I loved to clear trees and burn brush piles.  One day I returned from ta business trip to find four fire trucks, a lot of burned grass, and a tiny strip of green grass separating the burned-out area from the house itself an Jim frolicking about with my hose, keeping the fire at bay with the firemen.

“Stevie!  I almost burned down your house!  Thank God you’ve got 200-feet of garden hose!  Nothing to see here!  And your lawn will be BEAUTIFUL in a couple weeks!”

Jim counseled me one evening when a “situation” could have ended badly.  He was, after all, an attorney.  Jim encouraged me in a career change. He was, after all, a friend. Jim made my wife feel like she’d known him forever when she moved to this remote city to live with this guy she was gonna marry. He was, after all, a father of daughters and a lover of people.  Jim made everybody closer to everybody.  All the time.  His daughters were, are, always will be an extension of the light he shined.

Jim left every room he entered better when he left it.  He left every life better by touching it.  He leaves a legacy that is bigger than life, warmer than Santa Claus and indelibly printed on the souls of a community that spreads beyond borders, race, religion, socio-economic status.  Jim was Jim.  And I aspired to be one-tenth of what Jim was.

He was the same Jim tearfully granting a wish to a terminally ill six-year-old girl as when he was blustering away in a courtroom or a political debate.  He was an advocate for things that are right and good — Jim Gordon was, and remains, a Difference Maker.

Jim often said, “I love you, man.” Not in the Budweiser commercial punchline manner, but in a way that made it abundantly clear that he loved me, us, we.

Gordo, we love you man — clear the way, we’ll see you again.


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