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Memories of James A Ririe
By Verna Elaine Ririe

I did not realize it until I started to write this but I have absolutely no memories of Jimmy until he was about a junior in high school. I’ve seen photos so I know we grew up in the same family but I don’t know where he was. Probably avoiding his annoying little sister!

When Jimmy was a junior and I was in 6th grade our Mother died in an automobile accident. Shortly after, Jimmy was elected student body president of our high school. The next winter, Dad remarried and for Jim and I, life had changed completely in less than one year.

About this time, I discovered how wonderful boys were and lo and behold, the cutest, most popular, most interesting, brightest boy in Stevensville, Montana was my very own brother. Just being his little sister was an honor. I followed him around (our school was so small that the grade school and high school were only a few yards apart and we shared a lunchroom and other facilities) and did everything to make myself as obnoxious as possible.

From this time period I remember him appearing in an assembly where he and some friends covered a record, something about Indians on the left and Indians on the right. They were a big hit and I was quick to point out to all my friends that Jimmy Ririe was my brother. Of course, with such a distinctive last name, there weren’t many people who didn’t already know. I also remember a minstrel show he was in, done in black face, totally non-politically correct and absolutely hilarious!

Shortly before Jim was diagnosed with the cancer that would cause his death, Wayne had been very ill and Jim organized a mini-reunion in Las Vegas. The last night we were all sitting in Wayne and Barbara’s living room sharing some personal and private thoughts and memories. I remember Jim sitting apart from the rest of us, Nancy had already gone home and he was sitting by himself in a chair, off in a corner. He said very little, if anything but just looked at the scene in a thoughtful and melancholy way. I have wondered many times if he had a premonition that he would be the first of the seven children who had grown to adulthood who would be called home.

Jim became my advisor and best friend in the last years of his life. We shared many of the same health problems and were always looking for answers that might help. I spoke with him often on the phone about health and other problems. His advice was always welcomed partly because he always offered it in a humble, “take it for what it’s worth,” manner. He never made anyone feel inferior or that their thoughts and feelings weren’t valid and important.

He loved his children, their mates and his grandchildren. I believe that often we have blessings in our lives that we don’t recognize at the time and one such blessing for Jim was that he was fortunate enough to be married to a wife who encouraged and expected him to be involved with his children. His personality might otherwise have led him to be obsessed with business and other matters of less importance. This focus on his family led him to say to me shortly before his death, “There is no one I would rather be with than my own family. I love my children and their mates and my grandchildren. Spending time with them is the best time of all.”

One of my favorite memories was shortly before his death. Nancy was gracious enough to invite each of the brothers and sisters to visit. During my visit a friend of Jim’s, a lawyer who lives in St. George now, dropped in. As we were visiting they started talking about a mutual friend from the Washington D.C. days who had become a Doctor. He had recently been in the news when it was discovered that he had (unknown to the female clients) used his own sperm to impregnate several women in his fertility clinic. He was tried and convicted of a federal offense because he had solicited clients through the U.S. mail. Jim was lying in bed, so weak he could hardly move, saying very little, but when I asked if the friend had been convicted of m-a-i-l fraud or m-a-l-e fraud Jim laughed until he cried. The visitor just looked at both of us like we were crazy. I guess he didn’t share our sense of humor. Nothing meant more to me than saying something humorous and clever enough to make Jim laugh. He was a tough audience!

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