By now, most of you know my father, Jimmy Jewell, passed away last Tuesday, 46 days shy of his 99th birthday.
This newspaper and its competition carried articles about him and as well as his obligatory obituary. He would have been embarrassed by all of this fuss over him. He shied away from publicity.
Jimmy Jewell’s near century of living is interwoven with the history of this city and this county. His history has been fairly well documented in many of my previous columns.
But I do not wish to discuss his history or how it has been interwoven with the city. I wish to honor him for what I think he treasured most: being a good man.
In the early 1960s, I first heard of Jimmy Jewell being described as a “good man” when a Seabee buddy of his, Elmer Hauser, from World War II traveled from Arizona to see Daddy. Elmer and his wife Minnie went to dinner with us at Dr. Lowe’s second Plaza Motel on North Cumberland. There Elmer leaned over to me and said, “You know your father was the best liked man in our battalion (the Navy’s 75th Construction Battalion). He didn’t drink so he would give his beer and liquor rations to his friends. Everybody wanted to be his friend.”
Elmer chuckled and then explained to me confidentially, “But the reason he was so well liked was not the rations. He was liked because he was a good man.”
July as we prepared to move Jimmy Jewell from UMC to his new but short-termed home of Elmcroft Senior Living in early July, I went to see my mother in their new digs. A man on a motorized wheel chair met me half way down the long hall.
“Are you Jimmy Jewell’s boy?” he asked, ignoring the fact I resemble my 69 years.
“Yes, I’m Jim, his older son.”
“I thought so. “I’m Basel Tyree. Can’t wait to see him,” he continued, “I’ve known him since the late 40s. He worked on my cars. He is a good man.”
We talked some more and in one humorous exchange, I laughed. “When you laugh, you sounded just like him,” Basel observed said.
“Best compliment I’ve ever received,” I replied.
Archie King, also on a motorized wheelchair had met me earlier with eagerness to see my father. When we met the next time, he told a story of when his car had been rear-ended in the early 1950s.
“The insurance company was only going to pay for the bumper and the dents to the trunk, but the frame was bent. I didn’t know what to do,” Archie related.
“I told Jimmy about it,” he continued, “Jimmy took the phone, called the insurance agent and said ‘I’m Mr. King’s attorney, and we are going to sue your company if you don’t pay for fixing that frame.’
“They paid. There’s no telling how much money Jimmy saved me,” Archie concluded and then added:
“He’s a good man.”
After my father passed away, several folks like Tilford Elkins and John Cook also used “a good man” to describe Jimmy Jewell. I decided to cite them and others in this column. But before the Sellars Funeral Home visitation was over Saturday, I could not keep up with the names of those who used the term, I had also lost count.
That pretty well describes how Jimmy Jewell has been perceived in this town. I think it was his greatest trait.
It occurred to me there are other Lebanon men who have earned or are earning the “good man description.” Perhaps my perception is somewhat flawed, but I recall thinking of many Lebanon men of my father’s generation being “good men.” I believe it was not a false perception. The men of that generation valued the trust and caring of others over physical possessions or power. They did not draw lines in the sand unless it really mattered. They tried to make things work for everyone.
It seems our culture now leans toward self-protection, greed, and self-aggrandizement more so than in those times. There were a lot of good men back then, but they are dwindling quickly.
Jimmy Jewell was one of the best of those good men.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.