Monday, May 01, 2006

Ode to James G. Winkler

Sunday morning, April 29, 2006 I learned that my father's oldest brother, Jim Winkler, died. He underwent triple-bypass surgery the week before and seemed to be recovering well. Then early Sunday morning, the hospital staff woke him up to give him a bath. He suffered a stroke and died on the spot.

Jim was always a very warm and giving person, mostly of his time. He lived near Chicago and so every so often I would see him if I was in town, or if there was a major family event. He came to my wedding, and to my parents 40th wedding anniversary, and to my brother's wedding last summer. I remember a couple of times when I visited Chicago on business, and he always was a great host. One of those times, when I was still in the Air Force, he asked me what I wanted to do. So I said that I hadn't seen the Chicago Institute of Art. So he offered to meet me there (this was a major commute for him) and I walked a few blocks to meet him. We spent a good deal of time in the museum, and I remember admiring one particular painting for the use of light. When we left the museum, he gave me a gift and it was a print of that painting he had purchased in the museum shop.

Another time I visited him, he again asked me what I wanted to do. This time, I expressed interest in seeing Oak Park, where all the Frank Lloyd Wright houses were located. So he drove me up there and we spent the afternoon walking around and looking at houses.

Jim was an outstanding photographer, and went on many safaris in Africa, and traveled throughout the world. I remember seeing photos on his walls at home that, in my opinion, were National Geographic quality. He always had a camera and had a really great sense of timing. He got great pictures of people, such as at my parent's anniversary party, and my brother's wedding. And as digital cameras were coming in, he jumped on the bandwagon fairly early. Even though he was in his late 60s, he mastered the newer technology, and learned how to use Photoshop and was very comfortable with computers.

One thing is for sure: Jim lived life to the fullest. I hope to be that kind of person as I grow older: paying attention to younger people and being generous with my time. I'll miss him but I know that the world is a better place because of Jim Winkler.


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