Jim was eighty-eight when he enrolled in hospice with end-stage heart failure. Jim was born and raised in the area of Portsmouth historically known as “Funks Gut”. Jim was eight years old during the devastating “Thirty-Seven Flood”. Jim recounted, “We were evacuating and the water was rising fast. We were driving away and I could see the water rising behind us. I was holding the cat on my lap and it got scared and jumped out the window and we never saw that cat again.”
Jim’s dad was a boxer, wrestler, plasterer and wallpaper hanger. Jim exclaimed, “Dad’s hands were huge. I learned to plaster and hang paper with my dad.” But Jim’s first official job was as a “soda jerk” at Wooster’s pharmacy.
After graduating high school Jim enlisted in the Army. He reflected, “I asked the Army to put me in the medics because I didn’t want to kill people, I wanted to heal people. There were five of us who trained together as medics and sent to Korea. The commanding officer told us ‘You are in the infantry now.’ It didn’t make sense to me but I was sent to the front lines as a sharpshooter.” Jim’s daughters added, “Dad was a sharpshooter before he went to the Army. He had all kinds of awards from the Boy Scouts.”
Jim’s down-to-earth country boy demeanor can fool you. Jim’s three daughters, Renee, Sandra and Connie, “the girls”, explained, “Mom said dad made a career out of being a student.” Jim explained, “I was called to preach when I was eighteen but there were things that I needed to know.” Jim attended Bob Jones University in South Carolina, Morehead State University and Lexington Baptist College in Kentucky. Jim minored in music and majored in education, earning a Master’s Degree in education and a Doctorate of Divinity.
Jim worked well over twenty years as a local educator and coordinator. His first teaching position was at McKell Elementary where he developed the first Head Start Program and taught the 8th grade. Jim then moved to Northwest Schools where he taught special education, was a bus driver and was the truant officer. Jim later transferred to the “County Office” as the “Work-Study” coordinator, finding jobs for special education students. The girls explained, “The state of Ohio didn’t have a formal statewide special education program so dad, along with several other educators, met in Columbus every month for years to develop the state guidelines for special education. Dad was also instrumental in organizing the first Special Olympics in Scioto County.”
The girls proclaimed, “Mom and dad were both servants; they met through church. Dad was a young preacher and mom’s aunt told mom about him. Everybody told mom about this young handsome preacher.” Jim grinned and commented, “People told the truth back in those days.” The girls continued, “Dad was the pastor of the Kings Addition Baptist Church for over forty years, but he preached all over the world. Dad went on missionary trips, to the Philippines, to the Northwest Territories of Canada and to Papua New Guinea three times. He traveled to remote areas of the jungle where there were cannibals, and rats would run over their bodies as they slept on the ground at night.
“Dad preached and taught at Bible Conferences and small churches all over the country. A lot of our friends in school hadn’t traveled outside the state of Ohio. But we had been in every state except maybe five or six. There was a church in Michigan that didn’t have a preacher and dad preached there every weekend for years. We would drive back Sunday and he would teach school the next morning. We didn’t have much money so we couldn’t stay in hotels. So we put up tents, sometimes in the pouring down rain. And getting three young girls and a boy ready to go to church in a tent was a challenge.” Renee bragged, “I got pretty good at putting up tents.”
The girls declared, “Our house was called The Hobbs Hotel. Anyone traveling to anywhere came by our house. Mom had a guest book she had people sign. People stayed at our house from countries all over the world. Mom said, ‘I have so many children, children of all colors’. Every one of them called her ‘mom’ and called dad ‘pops’. There were a lot of things we didn’t have, but I wouldn’t trade what we had for anything in the world. We were really blessed.
“When we were children, if dad got a call that someone needed him we knew that he was going no matter what. He wouldn’t say ‘I’ll check on you in the morning’. He would say to us, ‘Well kids, the ox is in the ditch’, and he went right then. We heard that from dad all our lives.” The girls elaborated, “But something happened to dad a long time ago that made him that way. Our neighbor, Daisy, called and asked if dad could visit her mother because she wasn’t doing well.” Jim reflected, “I told myself, I’ll call in the morning; but she didn’t make it through the night. You might forget what you ate yesterday or last night, but you never forget something like that. It stays with you for the rest of your life. I determined I would never do that again.”
“And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent… Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out…?” (Luke 14:1-6)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.