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by Ron Cruger
A place for intelligent readers
The uncommon death of a common man
2007 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
Jim was skinny and tall. He was the nerd in your high school chemistry class. He’s the guy that got A’s in all his classes because
he worked so hard at learning. Another reason for his high grades was that Jim didn’t have much else to do but study. He didn’t go
to school dances, he wasn’t an athlete, he didn’t date. His parents pushed him to learn and get high grades. The social part of growing
up wasn’t taught by Jim’s mom and dad. Being an excellent student was all-important.
Jim’s father was a history professor
at the junior college in the town where Jim grew up. His mother was an accomplished violin player in the city’s classical orchestra.
Many of their neighbors thought the family was stuck up. They weren’t – they were just very quiet people with a preoccupation with
classical music and history. The family wasn’t blessed with strong social skills and that led people to misinterpret the family’s
Jim’s father died when he was sixteen year old, so, to support his mother as the only child, Jim held tutoring positions
first in high school and then in the same junior college at which his father taught. Jim’s mother died on the same evening Jim graduated
Jim continued living in the family house, which rattled with the memories of his mother and father. Jim read
books on salesmanship and selling. He got a real estate license and managed to sell enough property each year to keep the family house.
In ten years he had two dates. One with a former high school student who he knew from his photography class and another with a real
estate broker 15 years his senior. There was only one date with each. They just didn’t work out.
After living in the same
house for his first 27 years Jim decided that he needed a change. He was alone in life. He sold the family house on the outskirts
of Seattle, took the proceeds and moved to Hawaii – hopefully to find a new life, where friends and social life would increase. Jim
thought that by leaving the memories of his past locked in the old family house a new and friendlier world would await him in Hawaii.
The plane landed in Honolulu in July of 1967. Jim took his first few steps on Hawaiian soil and breathed in the moist, fresh smell
of plumaria. He felt sure his life was changing already. A lovely Hawaiian girl greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and placed a
lei around his neck.
Jim spent two days in a hotel until he found a small, second floor apartment on Ala Moana Boulevard,
midway between downtown Honolulu and the bustling streets of Waikiki. He also found a job as the classified advertising manager of
a group of weekly newspapers, delivered to the more rural areas of Honolulu.
Jim took to his new position. He read everything
he could get his hands on about newspapers, selling, personality improvement and attaining success. He was enjoying his new home.
He had hope that a social life would be found in Hawaii.
He joined the local Optimists Club and attended every meeting.
He gained acquaintances, but no close friends. On Saturday mornings Jim attended lectures at the main branch of the downtown library,
hoping that he would gain some friends.
He attended church services and volunteered to serve in the choir. Church members
enjoyed him, but none chose to be close to him when church let out. By noon Sunday he was alone again.
At the newspaper
he proved to be an effective, if not spectacular, salesperson. He was a fast learner. The staff and management of the newspaper appreciated
Jim’s success in making the classified section of the paper grow. He was a good manager and handled his staff well.
I joined the newspaper as Advertising director in November of 1967 I was introduced to Jim and found him to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
During my first month at the newspaper I went to lunch once with Jim. We spent a pleasurable couple of hours together. I found him
to be a good guy.
The following month Jim asked me to lunch again. I had to tell him I was too busy, but I would try to
make it soon.
I noticed Jim asking others on the staff to join him for lunch. I never saw anyone accept his invitations.
Again, Jim asked me to join him for a lunch. Again, I had to beg off.
I learned that Jim had requested some of his coworkers
to attend Optimist Club meetings with him, but had no takers. Everyone was too busy. There were a number of activities that Jim asked
coworkers to attend with him. He rarely had company for lunch.
One of Jim’s coworkers told me that “Jim is such a nice guy,
but his whole life is the newspaper now.”
The following day Jim asked me to attend a breakfast meeting with him. I told
him, “Jim, I’d love to, but I have to get to the office for a meeting, I’m sorry. Maybe next time.”
Jim’s closest friend
at the newspaper told me that Jim was a great guy and he really respected him. Seemed that everyone liked Jim. He was a good guy.
Jim was always the last guy out of the office at night. Driving by the large front windows of the office, just a couple of blocks
away from Jim’s apartment, anyone could see Jim alone, working at his desk almost every evening – the only person in the front office.
As best as I could tell, Jim never had a date during his time in Hawaii.
On this particular Friday, a year and a month after
Jim’s arrival in Hawaii, everyone poured into the office at 8:30 in the morning. Jim wasn’t there yet. Maybe he had a business breakfast.
Noon came and everyone began asking, “Anyone seen Jim today?” There were no answers.
By 2 p.m. worried faces began to show.
His friend at work offered to go to his apartment up the street. He came back to the office and said, “Nobody answered, Jim isn’t
At 4 p.m. a policeman came to the front door of the newspaper office and asked, “Was there a Jim who worked here?”
I was stunned at hearing the word –“worked.” I wanted to hear “works.”
After making sure we were talking about the same
Jim, the officer said, “I’m sorry to tell you that Jim committed suicide early this morning.”
The shock of hearing these
words brought silence to the office – then the flow of tears and grief hugging.
Jim had driven his pride and joy Ford Mustang
to the edge of picturesque Hanauma Bay, overlooking the blue and white capped Pacific Ocean. He engaged his emergency brake- the engine
continued running. He placed a hose from the car’s exhaust pipe into the passenger compartment. He rolled up the windows and sat in
the driver’s seat. He left the radio on, playing Hawaiian music. In a few minutes Jim was unconscious. A few more minutes and he was
The police found Jim sitting upright, his head on is chest, the radio still playing Hawaiian tunes.
had left no suicide note. He just decided to stop living.
I think it was the pain of loneliness. It gets to a guy!