I sadly opened up my e-mail this morning to something that is less than pleasant and is happening with greater and greater frequency: the loss of a former colleague. I have been retired since 2007 and each year passes and each year I seem to be further distanced from a part of my life that was very important.
I don’t claim to have known Jim Farrell as well as others. He started at New Trier about five years before I did. Jim was a very reserved man that I remember well because I lived in the same suburb as he did when he was still married to his first wife and lived in Deerfield.
Jim was someone I got to know because for a few years, when living off of only my teacher’s salary kept us from being able to support having two cars, I started taking a bus that went directly from Deerfield to Winnetka. It was during those years that I often got stopped by the students who would ask me if I was a ‘Narc’ as they never thought that I might be a teacher. Those years were years when I lived on the other side of Deerfield from Jim, across the tracks. I knew where he lived because he lived next to the Shapiros, whose older son was a good friend of our middle son. He lived there with his wife, Rosie and his two children. A bit later in time, I moved into his neighborhood, but I believe by then he was no longer living there.
Jim Farrell, Chuck Trom (who turned out to be our go to, trustworthy car mechanic later on, when he started his own Deerfield business), and I would be together on the bus. I got on first as I picked it up at its endpoint west of the tracks. Jim introduced me to Chuck and we spent our morning trek together.
Jim never seemed shy, but he was definitely reserved and always said what was on his mind. He was very intelligent, had a great, dry sense of humor that was clearly touched by sarcasm and although reserved at times, it was clear that if there was such a thing as the Blarney Stone, that he must have kissed it. Riding the 213 bus was never dull, I must say that and I looked forward to the fact that I had an opportunity to have a great time with Jim and Chuck on our way south to go to work. Jim and I stopped in Winnetka to walk to the New Trier campus and Chuck went further on, I believe to his job at a Chevy dealership.
Not only did I get a chance to ride the bus with him, I also periodically had lunch with him and the strange memory I have that stands out is when we were talking about preparing food and I told how I had learned to make salad and dressing simply, without having to resort to a grocery store purchased bottle. He was truly incredulous as I explained that I put a small amount of vegetable or olive oil and then red wine vinegar (O comes before V and without measuring) on the lettuce in a wooden bowl that I had rubbed with a smashed clove of garlic. I then tossed it well and seasoned it with salt and pepper to create the salad. It is funny how sometimes simple things that we take for granted are unknown by others.
Time moved on and Jim and Rosie were no longer married and we used to see her now and then at the local Roman Catholic Parish of Holy Cross in Deerfield that we still belonged to and were quite active at. Financially, things were better for us and I had a car to drive. I still remembered those bus trips and periodically I would run into Jim at school. He retired in 2002, while I did in 2007.
I had quite the acquaintance with his second wife, Carol (Randall), as she was the secretary in a special department of New Trier (the TAI Program) that I ended up being a small part of, where I taught a one-level French class. In another words, these were kids who normally would not have been taking French, due to their special needs. It was a most gratifying class to teach. She, like his first wife, was a truly wonderful lady.
A few years ago, I ran into Joe Donnelly at a concert given by Randy Casey, a well loved piano accompanist from New Trier who had moved on to Lake Forest High school. Joe told me of Jim’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and it saddened me. I heard that although Jim was originally from Detroit, that he had moved to my home state of Ohio, to be near his oldest son, having found a place with extended care for himself.
Time goes on, but there are certain people who continue to stand out in the memories, and Jim Farrell is one of those people. May he rest in peace.