Keeper of the Family

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James Francis Phelan

1934 - 2013

 

 

God has blessed me with the most wonderful, loving, kind family. All five of us were born in Flagstaff, Arizona and then moved to Phoenix when I was 3. One of the places we lived was Luke Field Air Force base where Dad worked in the maintenance department. We lived at T787 in the civilian housing.

The one I want to remember right now is Jim. He was 4 years older than me and he was my bodyguard. Like when I was 3 and liked to take off my clothes outside in the yard. He would take me by one hand, with my clothes in the other hand, into our mother. He would say "she did it again Mom!

Jim wore glasses and was of slight built. He worked so hard to learn the Latin responses, so he could be an altar boy. At night I could hear him talking in his sleep, practicing his Latin.

For Boy Scouts Jim put together a beautiful collection of insignias. He made a folding board lined with dark material and attached the insignias with their titles. I think this was done for one of his badges. It was very nice. He was always so neat and clean.

Jim helped me learn to ride a bike and roller skate. And when I didn't listen to him and tried to roller skate through water on the tennis court, I fell flat on my face. Jim, my bodyguard, picked me up and took me home to Mom.

Because Jim was of slight build, the older boys bullied him. One day the boys told him to bring me to the house where they lived. He took me by the hand and led me across the yards to their house. When we went in and Jim realized why they wanted his little sister there, he grabbed my hand and took me like the wind out of that house. We went so fast back across the yards my little feet barely touched the ground. All the while he was saying. "Don't tell Mom, don't tell Mom." I really didn't know what I wasn't supposed to tell Mom . I just knew those big boys were bad, because they didn't have their pants on. Right after that he was beat up by the same boys. Once again he had been my bodyguard.

Jim knew how to make me laugh. One Christmas I was too young to go to midnight Mass and had to stay at home with Grandma. Jim told me he put a match stick in the pew next to him to represent me. When he got home he told me a big fat lady came in and sat on me.

Jim as a teen ager worked at our local theater in Avondale Ariz. where he ran the projector for the movies. He and I would sweep the floor after hours and I could keep all the money I found. Sometimes it would be as much as 5 dollars.

When Jim was in high school he would take me to the drive-in theater in Phoenix, and then to Bob's Big Boy restaurant for a hamburger. It was dark one evening as we were getting ready to leave for a trip to Phoenix in his older model car. I saw him in front of it with a match. He lit the match and held it next to the headlight. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to see if the headlights were on. He teased me constantly. Another time as he drove down a dirt road on the way to the Biltmore hotel where he was going to apply for a job, he handed me the center ring of the steering wheel and said "here you drive for a while!"

Before Jim left for the Marines, he told me to be a majorette when I went to high school. So I did because he told me to. Whenever we went somewhere Jim insisted I wear a skirt and blouse or a dress. He was quite insistent about me being a lady.

When he went to Hong Kong as a Marine it was his duty to put on the yearly Marine Corp Ball, because he was the youngest Marine in the embassy. He wrote home and said he wore a red concubine. Of course he really meant cumber-bun.

These are only a few of my memories of my wonderful Brother and bodyguard, Jim. There are so many more that fill my heart. When out of the blue one memory comes to mind, it always make me laugh with delight. Jim could make me smile and still does. I will always love you, Jim. Thanks for always being there for me.
 

by Peggy Schmid

 

Uncle Jimmy volunteered for many, many years as the camp photographer for Camp Wana Kura the kids diabetes summer camp here in San Diego. My daughter ( his great niece) Katie has attended since her diagnoses in 1995 . All the kids loved him and called him 'Uncle Jimmy'.

by Beth Seibert Redman

We Purcell girls always called him Uncle Jimmy. From my earliest memory I always loved his twinkle! He indeed glistened with joy, sweetness and kindness.

Several of my fondest memories of him include the time my dad (Lloyd Purcell) was terribly burned in a house garage fire when I was 12. He not only almost died, but they also said he would never walk again. Uncle Jimmy in his usual jump in and help style was always there for us three little girls. (Polly hadn't shown up yet). He would take me to lunch or a movie (a huge treat in those days). He even took me shopping for a new bathing suit once - an unheard of event in the Purcell household. He was always hanging out with us and helping my mother while she dealt with the tragedies at hand. My dad adored Jim and they had a wonderful relationship even driving across country together -I think several times! Daddy lived and walked again and lived a full memorable life.

Uncle jimmy is responsible for my love for San Francisco and ultimately me moving my little family to Northern California. After meeting my husband for R and R in Hawaii, I flew to San Francisco where he gave me a first class tour of the city. A new fabulous experience for this country bumpkin from Arizona, where then and there, I knew I'd be back!!!

When my husband Mike died in 1981, I was on the phone with Jimmy daily. His calm and steadfast advice was always right on, and one of his resolutions for stress, he advised, was to get in my car, turn on the radio real loud with the air conditioning blasting and YELL at the top of my lungs. Just so you know, it works!

I look back on these several memories and although he was a textbook Uncle, he was so much more! He was a classy guy, always dressed to the nines, and set the bar for achievement and success beyond what the average person ever even thinks about! Does heaven even know how lucky it is to have you? Our loss, God's gain! We were so blessed to have had you in our lives!
 

Jan Purcell Parkinson