Goodbye, ‘Mr. T’
Jan 30, 2013 | 609 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In formal print, some knew him as Col. James F. Tucker. To the kids at the old Boys Club of Cleveland, he was “Mr. T.” And to everyone else, he was Jim.

Just Jim.

One of Bradley County’s finest, one who genuinely made a difference in the lives of all he touched — both in his working years and especially in “retirement” — Jim Tucker last Friday bid farewell to a community within whose memory he will dwell forever.

Jim was buried Tuesday.

Some believe a man’s true worth is measured best by those who know him best. Theirs are the voices of personal experience, those whose lives have been most impacted through positive influence and unconditional conviction. They are the experts in judging the good in a man because they have seen it.

One is Bobby Greene, a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland board of directors who was a college student when Jim first arrived at the agency as its director in 1970, and who benefitted from the retired military man’s natural leadership and personal insight.

“He was a very dedicated man and [he] loved his kids,” Greene told our newspaper. “To a lot of past members, he was like a father to them.”

Another is Matt Ryerson, United Way president and CEO, as well as Brenda Abel, a one-year retiree of the same United Way leadership post. Both admired Jim Tucker, not only in his Boys Club role, but also as one of the original pioneers who brought Habitat for Humanity to Cleveland.

“Jim Tucker has been an inspiration to me, and I know he was to Brenda as well, and all of us at United Way mourn his passing,” Ryerson said. “He has been such a large part of the history of our organization, not only with his service with the Boys & Girls Clubs, but as a United Way board member.”

Ryerson’s next memory of Jim is perhaps the most telling because without knowing it he was speaking on behalf of, and from the hearts, of thousands of Cleveland and Bradley County parents whose children learned from a genuine role model.

“Jim was a treasure to our community,” Ryerson stressed. “It is rare when one person has such a significant impact on so many. To say he will be missed just doesn’t seem to cover it.”

Another friend and fan of Jim Tucker is one who relied on the volunteer’s guidance to grow Habitat for Humanity into the widely respected organization it has become in our hometown. He is Matt Carlson, executive director of the Habitat affiliate.

“Jim was a personal friend to many of us and was a man of incredible character with a heart for those less fortunate,” Carlson told us. “His impact on the community, and more specifically on everyone and everything at Habitat, was amazing.”

Calling his mentor “Mr. Tucker,” Carlson acknowledged Jim’s vast array of roles over the years within the Habitat organization. Although partially confined to a wheelchair late in life, Jim made a point to attend some of the nonprofit’s most recent milestones — the groundbreaking at Victory Cove subdivision, the dedication of the 100th Habitat house, the grand reopening of the expanded Habitat ReStore on Grove Avenue and a couple of weeks later the opening of the community’s second ReStore on North Keith Street.

A man of incredible vision, Jim also was a man of action. He understood change within a community could not come overnight and would not come without willing workers, whether paid or volunteer.

In his life, Jim did both.

Whether at the Boys & Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity or other endearing causes, Jim Tucker was the embodiment of volunteerism and personal conviction. This great man embraced change, but only for the betterment of young hearts and innocent lives whose future hung in the balance.

We will miss Jim Tucker.

We will remember his lessons in life as we pursue our own life’s lessons.

Goodbye, Jim.

And thank you, not just for who you were but for what we became because of you.