The following eulogy was delivered at Jimmy Lee's memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, June 22, 2015. Lee passed away on Wednesday, June 16th, at the age of 62.
Thank you all for being here today -- it would have made him so proud to see St. Pats this full. I'm Jamie Lee, Jimmy was my father, and my best friend, and this is my love note from me, my mom and my sisters to him.
Ever since I can remember, my dad would write us a morning note. Before he left to catch the 5am train to the city, he always took the time to write "good luck in that game" or "on that test," or to draw a stick figure reenactment of the game we had watched the previous night. I will never forget a specific one of John Starks sticking a cow with a pitchfork after the Knicks beat the Bulls.... he loved a rout, and what an amazing sense of humor.
But it was his way of telling us he loved us, and even though he was at work -- we were always on his mind. Keep in mind this note wasn't on regular paper, he would take the cardboard out of his dry cleaned shirts and use a felt tipped pen -- remember, this was pre-blackberry.
Later on were his emails... of which l know all of you have been recipients. But calling them emails would be an injustice. These weren't emails -- these were strikingly beautiful expressions of emotion. Robert Frost would have approved of these emails. They were short, witty, emotionally charged, colorful and brilliant. He had a way with words that was undeniable. Everyone here knows what it felt like to receive an email from him. He was articulate, thoughtful and God did he have a way of making you feel special.
My Mom told me that it was this that initially won her over. It was his ability to creatively link things, to see things that other people didn't, or couldn't. Fittingly, they met in English class at Williams, and during his courtship of her, on a motorcycle ride together through the Berkshires, he would describe a mountainside of spruce trees to her as "so many sandwich toothpicks, all together."
He loved Dylan, he loved Frost, he loved poetry, he loved music. He wanted so badly to have his concert with the Bank Notes this weekend in Darien. Our last weekend together was fly-fishing on Block Island, but he spent hours practicing his guitar standing up, as he would have been during the performance -- "Exile on Contentment."
At both Canterbury and Williams he served as the editor of the school newspaper. And he loved reminding me: "J, at Williams there were the jocks, and then there were the nerds. Of course, I was a jock. But I was the only jock who could hang with the nerds." And he wasn't lying! We think this is why he liked his blackberry so much. It was a way that allowed him to communicate poetically, and so beautifully, and those words gave you the lens to see what was a truly special soul.
But it was this ability to connect with anyone and everyone -- the jocks and the nerds -- that made him so special. He could create deep, lasting relationships with people in all areas of his life. Whether it was one of the titans of the financial world, or the crew of the JPMorgan airport hangar, or the guys who rent paddle boards on Block Island, he made all of them feel loved, special and like they had a best friend in him.
I like to say that he was my best friend, and I know he would say that about me, but if I'm honest, he was a best friend to many.
When you were with him one on one, that office door closed and those sparkling blue eyes locked in on you, and only you, I'm not sure if I know of a better feeling in this world. He cared, he was listening, and he was going to help in any way he could. I'm going to miss that so very much.
My dad was a connector. He saw relationships, but he saw potential relationships. With people, with markets, with companies. He saw things other people didn't see. As he always said, you have to "skate where the puck is going to be, not where it is."
He was the coach of many of our childhood teams; and sports were more than just games. They were a way for him to communicate, connect and teach life lessons. Izzy, Lexi and I will always remember that we are all "wearing the same color jersey," and that you "can't score if you don't shoot."
Now I would be remiss if I didn't speak about the red leather couch in his office at home. Important conversations could only take place on "the red couch." And if you were invited to spend some time with him "on the red couch," you knew that you had something serious coming. College decision coming up? Red couch. Caught with some beer in the poolhouse? Red couch. Some of us may have spent more time on that couch than others.
But he truly enjoyed giving counsel, and he was a mentor to so many people. He loved the movie The Godfather, and in so many ways I see him so comfortable sitting with someone, helping them with their career issues, their goals, their problems, their feelings. I never made a big decision in my life without him by my side every step of the way, and the outpouring of stories that we have received from those he touched, mentored and moved is nothing short of remarkable -- he improved the lives of so many: a claim few can make.
When I had to decide who would be the best man at my wedding, there wasn't a doubt that it was him. And in his best man speech, a year ago yesterday, he told an old Darien youth hockey story. Driving to the 5am games, the traffic lights were all green at that early hour, and as I was just six-years-old, I thought it was my Dad who made them green. I thought he had some kind of special power. And in his toast, he wished us all the green lights in our life together. I hope he knows how real those super powers are, and how many green lights he has given us.
He was the most generous man I have ever met. He was tough; he was a warrior and a worker, but he was also kind, sweet and generous. After a weekend together, there was a minimum of ten hugs before you left, and often you were waved down the driveway to get out of the car for one more hug. "You're the best," he'd say ... "no, no you are THE BEST." "Do you have gas? Do you have enough money?" As he'd stuff crumpled up hundred dollar bills into your hand.
Just recently he dedicated a new track to Williams College. As a track star during his time there, he always wanted to do something special to give back -- we feel so lucky he could be there for the Lee Track opening ceremonies, and he has been immortalized at the place he loved so much.
Sadly, it's always the best that go too soon. He was ripped from us abruptly, and the pain in our hearts is searing. But something tells me that he had a plan. He was a star -- he was a superstar -- and he went out on the top of his game. He and I used to discuss the merits of going out on top, while your star was burning its brightest. And we often talked about a poem by A.E. Housman called "To An Athlete Dying Young," which although written in 1896 holds a striking amount of relevance to my father's too short time on this Earth.
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.
Dad, we love you so much. May you rest in peace always, and when I see you in Heaven someday, we will hug each other, and I'll look into those bright blue eyes again.
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