That spring was crazy, as I was running everywhere with my new job on top of some family issues going on back home. I barely knew what state I was in, but somehow every time we had an expo, Jim was there, and somehow we always ended up next to each other. His jovial manner and fantastic sense of humor made the days go by quicker, and even in the midst of the insanity of Interbike (think bike people in Vegas ...), he was as friendly as can be, taking my barbs about his ZIPP-regulation haircut in stride and laughing along.
I think I thought his name was Brian, and it was probably a year until I finally got it right. I can't say that we ever hung out all that much outside of the show events, but Jim was one of those guys whom you just knew that if you needed anything, he'd be there for you. He looked after me when I was on my own, helping out where he could, and I did what I could to return the favor. Our relationship wasn't much more than due to professional circumstances, but I considered him a friend. The bike industry is like that sometimes, and we just sort of pick up where we leave off at each show.
When I saw Jim in the SRAM offices last fall and found out he was a new dad, I was ecstatic. When he told me he had a little girl, that huge smile of his just got bigger. I could understand why -- Kate was 9 months old at the time, and I knew what joy he had ahead of him. I knew Jim would be a fantastic father, and that little girl with the beautiful name was lucky to have him as a dad.
It was the last time I saw him. Soon after, I was on my way to North Carolina, and Jim was on his way to another promotion at ZIPP, having worked his way up from front-line customer service. He deserved it -- he was seriously one of the good guys, and ZIPP was lucky to have him.
Jim died on Saturday in an auto crash. He was part of a wedding party on its way to downtown Indianapolis for photos, and the limo bus he was in collided with an SUV. His were the only fatal injuries, and according to news reports, he was standing in the limo when it crashed. I can only imagine that he was hanging onto the roof rails, telling a joke or a story and making everyone around him laugh. I'm certain he had a huge smile on his face and his eyes were bright -- he would have been in his element, friends and loved ones around him. The rest of the wedding party was transported to local hospitals, and the bride and groom exchanged vows in an impromptu ceremony at the hospital. Jim would have wanted it that way -- he would have wanted his friends' life together to start as soon as possible. The reception became a memorial service for him, and I'm certain the laughter flowed as much as the tears.
I can't begin to describe how saddened I am. Jim's daughter will never know the light that was her father, except through stories and memories. But Jim was bigger than that -- as much as we might try, our memories of him will never match the enormous personality that enveloped everyone around him with positive energy. Our stories will never be able to accurately convey just how amazing he was to be around.
My thoughts are with his family and friends right now, and with the extended ZIPP and SRAM family. I wish I could be there to share in the memories with them; in my own way, on my own trails, I'll remember Jim and the too-brief, too-infrequent times we shared.
Godspeed, brother: may the wind be always at your back.