by Jim Hollands.
There were three women in America who worked together as nurses over a period of many years. Dixie, Leonora and Josephine went through many ups and downs together but always remained very good friends. Then, over a period of a few short years, in places as far apart as Rye and Los Angeles they all met men called Jim and started new lives with them.
English Jim, Mountain Jim and Los Angeles Jim, as their new partners became known, were unknown to each other. I was English Jim.
On my first trip to America with Josephine I became acquainted with Mountain Jim and Leonora. He is a gentle giant who served in the American Navy and even saw service in Japan. The name Mountain Jim came as a result of him living in the back woods of California. Jim and Leonora are married and spend their time between the mountains and Leanora’s Mountain View home near San Fransisco.
On our latest visit to the States we planned to make contact with Dixie and her Los Angeles Jim. Some things are not meant to be, on the very day Jo’ phoned to make a dinner date with her old friend and Los Angeles Jim we learned he had been killed in a cycling accident two hours earlier.
Instead of enjoying a wonderful evening we attended, just three days later, a memorial service to a man who had been an American hero and had earned love and respect from all the people he had touched during his seventy one years. Standing in his beautiful garden and listening to the many family members and friends reciting their memories of Jim Rollins I was touched and moved to hear of his exploits and kindliness. I really regretted not having had the privilege to meet this great American who listed cycling as one of his recreations.
Jim Rollins flew 143 combat missions as a naval fighter pilot in the Vietnam War where he was highly decorated. In 1967 he retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain and began his second career as an airline pilot for United Airlines. He was a volunteer firefighter and scoutmaster and spent a lot of his time changing from one uniform to another.
In 1997 Jim returned to Vietnam with his three sons, they cycled from Hanoi to Saigon. There were many cycle rides involving family and friends, he was described as the best travelling companion. Jim Rollins lost his wife Gayle to cancer in 2000.
We did get to meet his three sons and daughter and many other members of his fine family who epitomise to me the ‘Spirit of America’. You can keep your European Community the American connection has far more value. I would rather stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Jim Rollins and his clan than put my trust in France, Germany or Spain.
Then there was Dixie, Jim Rollins new love. They had spent just one short year together and were talking of marriage. They had returned from a catamaran holiday in Belize less than a week before the accident happened. What a terrible blow this was for her to bear. Dixie is a wonderful vivacious lady who has had more than her fair share of knocks in life. She is very brave and told us that her memories of the last year would get her through.
This terrible tragedy blighted our holiday but the memories of the Memorial Service in that beautiful garden underlined to me what a strong backbone America has and how we are lucky to have the USA as Britain’s staunchest friend.
Rye’s Own June 2004
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