By Judy Garrison
I know Jim quite well. He was my next-door neighbor for 25 years and we collaborate on 100 Years Ago for this paper. Still, for this piece I interviewed him on aspects of his life like any reporter would. Though he is remarkably boyish looking, I can attest that Jim retired recently at retirement age!
Family and personal/work background:
Jim grew up in Andes, at the family home on Delaware Avenue. His mother, Dorothy, died at 98 in that home after a life devoted to family, church and community. She directed operations at the ASHC Thrift Shop for years and for a long stretch planned the Community Day parade. Dorothy McCune was from a founding family in Shavertown where she was raised. Likewise, Jim’s father, John (called Jim), who worked as maintenance supervisor at Delhi College, was from a founding family in South Kortright, with roots going back to 1792.
After graduating from Andes Central School, Jim studied English Education at SUCO in Oneonta, obtaining a B.S. degree in 1975. There were no teacher jobs available at that time and so after substitute teaching for a year, Jim took employment at Graham Labs in Andes (where ROMO Machine is now). Dr. Graham assured him that in time Jim would obtain a better salary there than through teaching. Jim continued to work for pharmaceutical companies, either with the successor to Graham Labs or Mallinckrodt in Hobart. He retired as department manager in products development and then managed the coding department, working mainly in R&D at the end. He had to sign a confidentiality agreement, which forbade him to talk about the products. It is public knowledge that the company, with plants all over the world, made significant money producing opioids.
After years of tightly scheduled days, Jim, though never bored, realized that in the relative freedom of retirement he needed to create a loose routine that worked for him. His morning pattern now includes an hour on the computer, breakfast, visits to the Post Office and bank and a long walk up the Tremperskill. I notice him stopping for prolonged chats with all and sundry, making socializing a counterpart to his walks. Then comes lunch, followed by projects and meetings.
Andes Society for History and Culture:
Jim joined the second board of directors in 1976 and was the second president (after Eric Wedemeyer). He has rotated on and off since then, sometimes as president, always involved with collections, which includes keeping complete records of accession forms of the Society’s acquisitions. Jeanette Liddle was a model for him in the way she kept her eye out for Andes related treasures. She, over time, became an expert on things Andes. The collections committee is constantly in search for historical items from Andes or nearby. Since it has a limited repository (in the climate controlled Archive at the Hunting Tavern Museum) the society is judicious about what it can accept. Though he doesn’t add bylines, I am sure most of the articles in the ASHC newsletters, some of which describe new acquisitions, are by Jim.
I urged Jim to consider leading more walking tours. He expressed doubt that new people would be interested, but I disagreed. I remember how people who have enjoyed his past Main Street, rail line and cemetery tours were awestruck with the depth and breadth of his knowledge of residences, families, cemetery stories and Andes history in general. I’ve heard often from Jim how he learned about the good old days from older residents. Starting at a young age he avidly collected stories from elderly people whom he befriended in town. Bessie Bruce, Elizabeth Bruce, Cliff Dickson, Marguerite Fowler, Gladys Miller and Jack Miller are some of his sources. In 2014 he and his mother together interviewed their cousin, Marian Scudder, during regular visits to see her at her nursing home. I can confirm that Jim seems to have retained every last item of information and every last story, acquiring photos and other memorabilia along the way to fill out his impressive mental compendium.
The Andes Presbyterian Church:
Jim has been organist here for 46 years (and at the Cabin Hill Church since 1995)! He took lessons from the previous organist, to supplement his piano skills, and has kept at it ever since. He has been on and off Sessions, the spiritual administrative board, for years. That board is currently seeking a permanent minister; for now they have fine lay preachers.
Emergency Medical Squad:
Jim joined in the 1980s, expecting it to be temporary, and is now the longest running member. The squad had 24 members when he joined (at that time 2 EMTs and one driver were assigned 12 hour spots during the week and 24 hour spots on the weekends). It now has only 6 EMTs (plus drivers, who don’t have to be certified, but do need to be versed in use of the equipment). The volunteer EMTs are on call 24/7 and respond if they are home; the drivers are on a schedule. The most frequent calls result from falls and illness, with home and road accidents less frequent. The squad mans 2 ambulances and very seldom misses a call. (I recently heard the Director of