On Christmas Eve of 2001, another dear and cherished friend of my family died, Jim Ven Horst. Jim was 88 years wonderful. Jim wed two lovely women in his life. His first wife, Florine - with whom he had three childen, Joe, Roger, and Debbie - died almost 20 years ago. He had the good fortune to meet and marry Cathrine, who also preceded him death, nearly 10 years ago. Jim was a robust and vital man who saw things in simple, clear terms. For that, he was always a steadfast, capable, and reliable friend, who came to my rescue numerous times to mend a pipe, unplug a sink, install equipment, advise, recommend and generally help with things that both my grandmother and I were clueless about.

Jim and my grandmother knew each other from the "old days." Jim and his equally attractive brothers ran a gas station and repair shop at the corner of Middle and Kimberly roads in Bettendorf for many years. They were famous for their good looks and charm, not to mention mechanical genius. The combination was irresistible, and they were extremely successful in business as a result.

My grandmother and Jim enjoyed each other's companionship for Sunday drives out to the areas of Davenport and Bettendorf, where Jim planted literally hundreds of walnut trees as a quiet part of his generous legacy. I remember him coming to the house to "fetch" grandma, and the three of us would sit and chat away. Well, the truth is that Grandma and I would sit and chat away while Jim politely listened. People thought Grandma and Jim were incompatible, but they were wrong. Those two had a genuine affection for one another born out of long-lived respect and admiration. Jim could compliment anyone because he was so affable and easy to be with. He was a port in the storm for the two of us, who wouldn't know a wrench from a ladle.

I will always remember Jim Ven Horst as a true friend. He was always willing to help when he was needed. He didn't mince words, and he was one of the most honest people I have ever had the pleasure and honor to know.

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