Thursday, January 12, 2006

Farewell To A Former Colleague

The PG's Brian O'Neill pays tribute to a former co-worker of mine who passed away last month right around Christmas time. James Church was one of many artists who bided their time working at the book shop while looking forward to a more lasting career as a professional artist. I last worked with James about five years before his death, when I opted for a career change, and saw him a handful of times when I went back to the shop as a customer.

I lost track of him soon after that, and it was nice to learn that he eventually did get out of retail and open his own art gallery for a couple of years. On the down side, it was sad to hear that he had experienced hardships that included alcoholism and marital separation; all of that must have gone on after I last saw him.

No one who knew James had any doubt about the most positive influence in his life: his daughter Sophie. She was a baby when James first came to work with us, and it was obvious from the start that his life now revolved around this new human being whom he helped bring into the world. At the time, my two oldest kids were just babies, so I knew exactly what he was feeling.

One word that James sometimes used to describe himself was "conservative", an unusual adjective to apply to oneself in Pittsburgh's artistic community; however, James was not really an ideologically oriented person. He was a devoted father, and a creative individual who worked hard using his own means to be the best that he could be at his craft. That's one of the best descriptions of "conservative" that I have ever heard.

Brian O'Neill also mentions the fact that James did not drive, and took long walks around the Lawrenceville neighborhood where he most recently resided. When he worked in the South Hills, he lived fairly close to the shop and I recall giving him a ride home on a handful of occasions. James really was the kind of guy you didn't mind spending time with away from work, and now I'm sorry that I didn't follow his post-retail career at the gallery.

So long, James. I'm glad that I got to know you.

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