Brother Jim

Brother Jim, 1931 –  2003

Sometime ago someone asked what Jim did. I thought about it for a minute then told them that Jim did Jim Hogan better than anyone I knew. He really was a bit different. One might say that he marched to the beat of a different drummer but even then he was sometimes out of step. Jim never tried to be anything other than what he was, and I believe that was his secret attraction, his basic integral honesty.

When old friends he had met throughout the years, whether from high school, his college years or his travels, came to Wheeling, they looked up Jim. Their lives had changed with marriage, children and careers. The world had changed, Wheeling had changed, but Jim was the same jovial “in your face” guy who loved to laugh, who gave no quarter and expected none. At the same time, he was a big hearted fellow.

A couple of stories will flesh him out for you. A very long time ago our brother-in-law, Albert, got Jim a job in a meatpacking plant down the river.  After a couple of weeks Albert’s friend who owned the plant called him and told him he had to let Jim go, because he was trying to organize the work force to strike for higher wages.

A call came during the wee hours of the morning from a Las Vegas club, where a pit boss, who was introduced by Jim, verified that Jim had smashed a crap table. The pit boss said it was beautiful, that he had come flying through the air in swan dive form and landed right in the middle of the table and flattened it to the floor. This was the era of violence out there, and I very nervously asked what they were going to do to him. The pit boss said, “ For what he has lost, he can bust up another one if he wants.” and laughed. Jim had a certain unexpected rapport with people that others couldn’t approach.

When he was younger and living with Mom, she was constantly calling me to find Jim and bring him home. One day I received another call from Mom, who wanted me to do something about Jim who was brandishing a shotgun around the house. It seems he had beaten up a bouncer from one of the more famous joints in town, and he was afraid they would come after him. This was one call too many for me, so I called the police to pick him up, which they did, they were to keep him overnight with the matter to be resolved the following morning. 

About an hour later Mom called again. Jim was back at the house with his buddy and attorney, Rusty, who also drank above the national average. By the time they got Jim to the police station they were convinced that I was the meanest man on the face of the earth, that dear Jim was the victim, and they let him go. I went to the house and Jim and Rusty had just left.  I caught up with them as they were about to enter the Alpha. A toe to toe fist fight broke out at the steps going into the bar. Rusty retired early, and the bar patrons were spilling out to catch the evening’s festivities and to scream encouragement and shout bets on either Jim or me. Presently, the fight was broken up and I went off to lick my wounds trying to forget about it.

My first few visits to see Mom were very coldly received. Finally, I asked what was wrong. She fixed me with a cold level stare and asked, “Why did you beat up your little brother?”

It seems that during our physical discussion Jim’’s shirt was badly torn and bloodied as was his face. After it was over, Jim and Rusty went to St Michaels where they enlisted the aid of the pastor, and the three of them proceeded to Mom’s house to discuss my anger problem.

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As time moved on, Jim’s “casual” life style caught up with him, his physical health deteriorated, and he began to fall resulting in hospital stays. At the end of one stay as he was leaving the hospital, he was being pushed in a wheelchair by an aide and we stopped at the nurses station. Some sweet older woman said  “Are we going home today, Mr Hogan?”  Jim said ‘No, I thought I would go down to the whore house for the afternoon. I’ll be back this evening.” This was thought to be uproariously funny by everyone within earshot. He could could get away with saying things no one else could.

He eventually went to the Good Shepard Nursing Home to receive the specialized care he needed. The trouble was he didn’t stay. Jim “busted out” of the home. He called his friend Melvin Kahle and demanded that he meet him on Edgington Lane at Carmel Road;  that he wanted to sue the Nursing Home and me.  I believe Melvin was in the U.S. Attorney’s office at the time and out of private practice, but he went to see Jim and tried to talk him into going back to Good Shepard, to no avail.

He added that he wanted Melvin to look at his right fist. He told him he had one good one left and he was saving it for his brother.

Jim then went to the Alpha and got a ride to the Island for Central’s opening football game. DeFelice Care was located on South Front Street at the time and one of the employees lived in an apartment on the second floor. He called Les, the owner, to report that Jim was parking cars in the front yard at $5.00 a clip. Les told the tenant to let it be. Jim made enough to go to the game, set up his new friends with drinks and hot dogs, and be his usual boulevardier.

He spent his last days in Continuous Care and when the best part of him was gone, I bumped into an old friend of his on the street, and in talking about Jim, I said it was really difficult for me to visit him because there was nothing to talk about.  She reminded me that we were both brought up Catholics, so why didn’t I try saying a prayer with him. The next time I stopped I asked if he received communion that day and he whispered that he had.  I asked him if he would like to say a prayer with me.  He told me in a very irritated way, “I already said one”.  Then he almost shouted “Just when in the hell did you get so damn religious?”  He loved to one up me.

Jim reminded me of the old story of the man who inherited a fortune and ended up old, broke and alone. When he was asked what had happened to all his money he replied that he drank up a good bit of it, gambled a lot of it away, spent some of it on women, and the rest just sort of slipped through his fingers.

This was the man the world saw. What was not seen was a man who quit drinking and was sober for more than 20 years when he died. The book Alcoholics Anonymous states that it is a program of rigorous honesty with ones self.  That was fairly easy for Jim, for he never pretended to be anyone but who he was. It also states that it is a program of spiritual growth not spiritual perfection.  Jim with his own story and long sobriety was able to touch the hardened, the most difficult, like the tattoo artist or the tough old ladies who initially couldn’t relate.

I ran into the daughter of one of these women, while she was serving at a Church supper.  She told me she had just graduated from Law School,  passed the Bar and was starting her first job the following Monday. I believe that Jim was instrumental in her success by reaching the girl’s mother years before.

So who was Jim Hogan?  Although he was a constant and consistent in who he was, he was perceived in so many different ways by such a vast number of people who knew and cared for him throughout the years.

I know he was loved by his two older sisters and me. He was a very good friend to have in your life.