No one could have imagined how literally her words would describe Jimmy’s time on earth.
The family was still grieving the death of my uncle, Leo Frances Gorman. Leo was involved in a car crash on 6th Street and 8th Avenue in Cedar Rapids, and he died of complications from his injuries on October 9, 1932. (The crutches he’s using in this photo were a result of a previous car accident.) Leo was 28 years old at the time of his death.
Thirty one years later, Jimmy – who” was sent to take Leo’s place” – was killed instantly in a car crash in Cedar Rapids. The date was 3 days after the anniversary of Uncle Leo’s death — October 12, 1963. Jimmy was 29 years old at the time of his death.
I don’t expect to ever again meet anyone like Jimmy. Unless it’s an extraterrestrial from some other planet. He was a truly unique creature.
When we were little, I was convinced that my sister Joan was the only one who would ever get straight A’s in school. Instead of concentrating on my own spotty record, I was fixated on improving the school performance of my three little brothers.
As far as their schoolwork was concerned, I was certain my brothers were poised on the brink of disaster. None of the three ever actually failed a grade but I remember being frozen with certainty and shame at the thought of it. My endless bullying to try to get them to do their homework elicited snickers but little else. I can’t remember what the grades on their report cards were but at the time, I thought they were blood-curdling. Which probably meant C’s or worse. Any of the three of them could have out-performed me – with their eyes closed – but I didn’t know it at the time.
After Jimmy died, we were at his Rosary service and were talking with Sister Mary Leonella – our algebra and geometry teacher. She told us that Jimmy had the highest I.Q. ever measured in a student at St. Patrick’s, before or since. I stood there in dumb amazement remembering Jimmy’s complete disinterest and boredom with school.
I started working at the age of 14 (no child labor laws then) as an elevator operator at Mercy Hospital. Pretty soon I became aware that some of the doctors had heard of Jimmy. Sometimes, he would be picked up and driven to their homes where he’d teach them and their kids to play chess.
Eventually, he achieved a national ranking as a chess champion. Among other requirements to maintain that status, at various times each year, he simultaneously played up to 30 other players at a time. He played Bobby Fischer at a few tournaments (and said he and most of the other players thought Bobby was a butt-head — always humming and vocalizing during his opponent’s play).
Jimmy served in the army at the end of the Korean war. At some point, he got the nickname “Looie”. He fell in love with a girl there – Miss Kim — and wanted to marry her. The chaplain talked him into waiting. Jimmy did go back to Korea a couple of years later, but the marriage never happened. I have a photo of Miss Kim somewhere. I’ll post it if I can find it later.
I still miss Jimmy. He was one of the most interesting, unforgettable people I’ve ever known.
Just for fun, here’s an “Intelligence Test” to measure your IQ. Uncle Looie would have loved it. It doesn’t actually measure your intelligence, your fluency with words, and certainly not your mathematical ability. But it might give you a gauge of your mental flexibility and creativity. There’s no time limit on getting it done. You may find that you’ll get some of the answers long after you’ve set the test aside.
And I won’t ask you what your score was, if you won’t ask me mine.