A REAL GEM OF A GUY
Yes, Jim Gordon is a gem in so many ways. He is a good neighbor who bakes cookies, a man who loves his family, and a good friend to many. The fact that he is also a jeweler makes the term seem appropriate, especially for the month of February. Jim had several other jobs earlier in his life; however, he now spends two to three days a week as a consultant and seller of jewelry, concentrating on diamonds. He and his partner’s “store” is not advertised but business thrives on word of mouth recommendations.
James Aubrey Gordon is a native Memphian, born July 28, 1937. According to Jim, “We lived nearby and I was raised in the Union Avenue Baptist Church. I have one sister, four years older than I. We played outside with other neighborhood kids until we heard my father’s whistle. Then, we knew dinner was ready and it was time to come in for the night.” Jim’s father owned a jewelry store which influenced him in later life.
When Jim was four years old, the family moved to the Springdale area of Memphis which remained as his family home until age twenty-five. He attended Springdale Elementary, Snowden Junior, and Central High School, graduating in 1955. As a youngster, Jim became involved with the Boy Scouts and developed an interest in hunting and fishing. When asked about dating, Jim says he really didn’t date much as he was very shy. However, he wanted to play softball on a championship team, so Jim became a member of Springdale Methodist Church which sponsored such a team. It was at that church that Jim met the “love of his life,” Marilyn Campbell. Jim was a senior in high school and Marilyn was only a freshman but he knew that she was The One. “I never dated anyone else after I met her,” says Jim.
Following graduation from high school, Jim enrolled in Vanderbilt University. “It took me five and one-half years to get a degree in Economics as I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at that time.” During two of the summers Jim was in college, he had some of the most exciting experiences of his life by becoming a Smokejumper for the US Forest Service. Based in Montana, after a thirty day orientation, Jim often parachuted from a plane with other Smokejumpers into a wilderness that had no access by any means other than by foot. After the fires were out, the Smokejumpers had to walk back. They carried with them a two day supply of rations and a sleeping bag for survival. With compasses and maps, the returning Smokejumpers could find their way to a highway where they would “thumb” their way back to base. “You had better return with your parachute!” exclaims Jim. The pay for this service was $3.50 per hour but they were paid for the walk back as well. “I made enough money to pay my tuition at Vanderbilt.”
Following graduation from Vanderbilt in 1961, Jim joined the Air Force Reserve and was activated in 1962 due to the Cuban Crisis. Fortunately, he was stationed at the Memphis Airport, assigned to Personnel Equipment. Jim had earlier asked Marilyn the “big question” and always the romantic, had placed her ring in a box of chocolates. She accepted and a wedding was planned for November. Although on active duty, Jim was granted a three day leave to get married. He and Marilyn would become parents to two “wonderful” daughters, Leigh and Nancy and now, four grandchildren have been added to the family.
Jim’s first job was with a finance company that repossessed cars. After five years, he left for a sales position with IBM, retiring after twenty-five years. In 1991, Jim was hired to be Operations Director for the FedEx-St. Jude Golf Tournament. The tournament had been moved to a new golf course and it was Jim’s job to get the course ready. It took five years to complete the task, and he retired in 2004. Following this, Jim began his jewelry business.
Jim loved to travel but Marilyn did not like to fly. Because of their Scottish heritage, they did make a trip to England and Scotland. While there, they talked with many natives, including a Catholic priest. When the priest heard that Marilyn was a Campbell, he exclaimed, “Faith and Begorrah, your families have been fighting for over 100 years!” Marilyn had graduated from Memphis State University with a degree in Education and a Masters in Library Science, becoming Librarian for Vollentine, then, St. Mary’s Episcopal School. The Gordons eventually placed their church membership with Christ United Methodist Church. Sadly, Marilyn succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. “We had fifty wonderful years together,” says Jim. He had provided care of her for most of the last five years of her life.
After Marilyn’s death, Jim lived alone for seven years before moving to Kirby Pines in 2019. “I finally realized that fellowship is important. I investigated all options and chose Kirby Pines because of Lifecare and the beautiful campus. Golf is my passion and I play twice a week, weather permitting. Now, I have sharpened my billiard skills by playing with four ‘pool sharks’ here at Kirby. This activity makes for great discussions and gamesmanship,” says Jim. Don’t you wonder what those discussions are about?
Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines