James Hoff didn’t give up without a fight on anything.
So, when he told me that he was accepting hospice care, I knew he had given it everything he had.
“Jim” (which is what everyone who knew him called him) moved on last Sunday to whatever is next for his powerful, loving, large, expressive Spirit. He was 68. He was as large in life as he was in build, referencing his colossal stature as “five feet 17 inches.”
To call him a “close friend” does not do justice to our relationship.
Although having moved to Texas several years ago, he remained my mentor, buddy, confidant, and sometime political sparring partner. He was the big brother I never had.
With the exception of direct family, Jim’s loss hits more harshly than any of the others I’ve written about over the last 14 years. Although relieved that he has been released of the suffering of his final months, I am saddened beyond words over the void left in many lives. Today the sun shines, yet light fails to penetrate.
Of late, I feel I’m becoming eulogist-in-chief.
Whereby it’s an honor to do so, even at the cost of a heavy heart – I am incapable of capturing the essence of anyone within these few column inches. Nonetheless, I shall try yet again to capture how I felt about Jim, knowing I shall fall miserably short.
Jim owned and managed radio stations when I moved here so we started as competitors; our paths not converging until I was forced to find a new source of employment and walked into his stations. Embarrassed and saddened by what I considered a “failure” in my career, he was the last person I wanted to see — but you do what you have to do, right?
Standing by the dark-wood receptionist’s station, I sheepishly asked if I could talk with the sales manager when Jim — recognizing my voice — rounded the corner with a huge outstretched hand reaching out to shake mine.
“You’re looking for work?” he asked.
Shamefacedly, I replied, “Yes, might you might have a position in sales?”
“Not right now,” he responded, but added without delay, “I’ve always admired your work as my competitor. I have a new project; I think you’d be perfect for it. Are you interested in talking?”
Such began one of the finest relationships I’ve ever had the honor to experience.
For the next 30 years, we worked hand-in-glove on all manner of enterprise. Beyond that, we became dear, dear, dear friends.
I’ve been struggling to come up with “that one word” that would describe the Jim I knew. It’s impossible; two compete for main stage.
Over the years, each time I saw him tested on whether to do what’s right or what’s easy, without exception, no matter the cost, I was always, always, always reassured that he chose what was right. In a world of situational principles, Jim was a lighthouse of ethics.
Maybe because of that, or maybe not, he was also beyond loyal. If Jim was your friend, you could have no one better at your side. Despite the uncomfortableness of the situation, Jim was the person who helped me move into a new apartment on a rainy, gloomy, sad weekend when my first marriage ended. He literally stood by me as we traipsed back and forth into the house that would no longer be mine, filling his truck with my possessions while my ex watched as her relationship reached its end. Although loyal to me, Jim was respectful and understanding of what my ex was experiencing, treating her with kindness, respect, and compassion the entire time.
Ethical and loyal, that was Jim Hoff.
Always generous, Jim and I passed countless hours breaking bread on sunny afternoons at the Woodley Island Marina, oft-time discussing differing political views. We respected and loved each other so the conversations — although impassioned — where always couched in an understanding that each of us was intelligent and wanted what was best for all. We simply saw it differently. I knew it already, but it was Jim who helped further cement my belief that reasonable people can reasonably disagree while remaining close.
Someone said that the reason we love so deeply is because we realize it’s a limited time offer. We know it won’t last. We better appreciate each moment and every important relationship while we can. Someday, we will all be gone. Therein lies the bittersweet richness of life.
I know that. I understand it. It’s just a damn shame that I won’t be able to talk about it with Jim any longer. Yet, I am so honored for having known him at all.
There is a five-foot seventeen-inch hole in my heart that will never be filled.
Rest in peace James Hoff. You are gone too soon.
To see an article about Jim in our local paper, follow this link.