The Bible reminds us there is an appointed time for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
This past week we wept and we mourned at the funeral for Jim Knowles, our eighth-grade basketball coach, teacher and friend.
Coach Knowles was a fine man. He was a driven man.
Several of my former classmates still talk about how Coach Knowles challenged them on the football field, oftentimes without proper protective gear, to “knock him down.” Few did.
Jim brought the same drive to his career with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office as a detective under former Sheriff Don Osborn. He would work on a case for days on end, without sleep, until he brought the offender to justice. And most often he did.
During my junior high years, Jim fell in love with a fellow teacher, Miss Martha Cohn, the most popular of all the junior high teachers.
Love compels men to do many things. In Jim’s case, love compelled him to see Martha at every opportunity during the school day. The visits became so frequent Martha would have to lock her classroom door to keep Jim at bay.
As I mentioned, Jim was a driven man. Former classmate and cheerleader, Peggy Bennett, reminded me this week how students would look up from their desks to see Jim’s head bobbing up and down as he jumped up to see his beloved through the glass window, high atop the wooden door.
We were reminded how their love had endured throughout their lives. He loved his family with all of his heart. His son, Jamie, is one of the nicest men in Clinton County, with a lovely family now of his own.
We mourned as we walked up the long ramp at Smith-Reynolds Funeral Home to say goodbye to our friend last Friday, one day after his birthday. There was an outpouring of love and affection for Jim and his family. It was a blessing to see it.
The slow funeral procession was led through downtown by Chad McKay and three John Deere tractors, in tribute to Jim’s love of antique farm machinery.
As the procession twisted its way through the streets of Wilmington, we heard the church bells strike noon. We prayed the rosary for Jim and said goodbye. It made our farewell less painful knowing he was at peace.
After the visitation for Jim, two of my former classmates and teammates, Mike Cowman and Mark Lane, and our families made our way to the Mediterranean Restaurant to share some special time together and exchange fond memories of Jim.
We remembered Murakami’s words, “No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.”
Mark’s dad, Dr. Willard Lane, was with us. He was part of our lives as 12-year-old boys, and he magically made us feel like boys again. And that is comforting. We spoke about how lucky we were to grow up in a time when America was at its best.
Mark, Mike and I don’t shake hands anymore when we leave each other. We hug each other. And we are from an era when men seldom hugged other men. But we know life is precious, and fleeting, and waits for no one.
The next day, my wife, Brenda, sister Rita, brother Jim, and I traveled to Kettering to attend the Haley family reunion.
It was good to be with family – to hear the stories of our cousins. We all had learned the value of sitting on the front porch telling and listening to stories as we grew up. It didn’t matter how many times we heard them.
We talked about how our visiting cousins swam near the Port William dam, played ball at old Port high school, and ate the food at Minnie’s Restaurant. We told them how we enjoyed coming to Dayton and riding the big, yellow trolley buses past Rike’s and on to our cousins’ homes. We were fascinated by the big city.
The memories of Jim Knowles, my 50-year friendships with Mike and Mark, and the laughter of the Haley cousins never grow dim or doubtful. We saw a good friend return to his Maker this week, and a day later, we saw our three- and four-year-old cousins soaking each other with water balloons for hour upon hour at our family picnic.
The Circle of Life goes on. Just as it should.