James Fee


Jim Fee



October 13, 1945 – October 9, 2013

Written Oct 9, 2013 7:55pm by David Fee

James Patrick Fee, Jr., passed peacefully from this life at 5:17 p.m. on October 9, 2013, surrounded lovingly by his family.

Dad’s Eulogy & a Final Thank You posted on October 20, 2013
Reprinted here from Jim’s CaringBridge webpage :

Dear Friends,
We greatly appreciate so many of you attending our dad’s memorial service (and reception, and drinks at Kells, and hanging out at our mom’s house afterwards…), and we certainly understand that it wasn’t possible for everyone to make it. For those of you who were not at the service, we have pasted the eulogy below.
This will be our final CaringBridge post about our dad. Once again, we wish to thank everyone who has posted to the site. We come away from this experience understanding more clearly just how good people can be.
We’re all doing well, including our mom. Of course there will be those difficult times — those spontaneous reminders that Dad is no longer with us — but we treasure memories of him and knowing that his legacy indeed lives on.
Molly, Dave and Mike
Of the many lessons we learned from our dad, one of the clearest was that of gratitude – of being thankful for what we have. With that in mind, we wish to say to all of you, everyone whose lives our dad impacted and who impacted our dad’s life – to all of you, we wish to say: thank you.
We write this with a profound sense of gratitude to all of you, but also, of course, to our dad. We’re grateful for our years together, and for our final five days together.
After some sort of an incident, after something happened to him, happened inside his body, we believe, something threw our dad from his bicycle. He’d been visiting son Michael in Davis, California, and was out doing something he loved. By the side of a tree-lined bike path, a man named Steve Kelleher gave our dad mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Our dad’s heart pumped furiously, Steve told us, but he couldn’t breathe on his own, so Steve did so for him.
Jim Fee’s life was saved, albeit for less than a week. He was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Our mother received a call, the one you never want to receive; she then called each of us, and we traveled to Sacramento, and we embarked on five searingly awful, yet exhilarating days together. Over the course of those five days, we received countless visits, calls and emails, not to mention over 700 CaringBridge posts offering solace and comfort; with your words supporting us, we discussed and considered, and we came to know our father even better than before, and with his guidance we made the most difficult decision any of us will ever face.
Of course a eulogy should honor and chronicle a life and not describe a death, but we believe that by telling you how our dad spent his last five days, we can all come to know more about how he spent his nearly 68 years of life.
Our father was the eldest of nine children, raised on Chicago’s South Side. Born shortly after the end of World War II, after our grandfather returned from the South Pacific, he was not only the first Fee sibling, but the eldest of a generation of cousins and close friends.
Decades later Dad’s Uncle Eddie would explain it to us: “He was the One. He was our first, and we had so much hope for him. And he didn’t let us down. He got good grades, and he didn’t get into trouble, and he went on to do great things.”
As we now understand, he did go on to do great things. Determination; drive; perseverance; these were his keys to success, to his grades and success in track & field; to his receiving an Evans Scholarship and doing well at Marquette University, where he met our mom (and we’re pretty sure it was perseverance, not raw talent, that finally won her over). When medical school, for which he’d been seemingly destined, didn’t come to pass, he dug in and pursued a Masters Degree in Physiology, which he then put to work in a career in health care.
Our dad was a smart guy, to be sure. But by his own happy admission, success didn’t come easily. Typically, he was just willing to work harder than anyone else, to outlast the challenge. When he delivered his mother’s eulogy, a beautiful tribute to a beautifully-lived life, he told us that this was the lesson she and Grampa Fee imbued most strongly in their nine kids: Finish what you start. Honor your commitments.
It’s hard to say which came first for our grandparents: their belief in the value of hard work, or the nine kids who at times required it. As the family grew, so grew their commitment to the tenet that bonded them, and that was displayed on an embroidered sign that hung in their living room: Love one another.
Sociologists say that when there’s more than five years between brothers and sisters, they tend not to develop close relationships. Yet thanks to their shared commitment to putting hard work into all pursuits, including their relationships, our father was close with all of his siblings, from Kevin, just two years younger, to Donny, whose due date our dad’s college dormmates made the subject of a betting pool.
Our dad played a key role in nursing his brother Bob back to health after a life-threatening skiing accident. He joined his brothers for countless runs in the Portland woods and the Chicago streets and bike rides through Utah’s Canyonlands and mountain highways in Colorado. He joined his siblings during their parents’ final days, and they mourned together after they passed away. And later he served as cheerleader and mentor to nieces and nephews: gymnastics meets; First Communions and Confirmations; birthday parties and graduations.
Our father’s commitment to his siblings – and theirs to him – were manifest in all eight of them traveling to his deathbed. They flew from Portland, and Florida; from Colorado and of course from Chicago to spend his final hours with him. One at a time or in pairs; alone or joined by a loving daughter, they came to his bedside, just as he’d come to Bob’s some 20 years ago. Every visit brought joy to his face, as through the tubes we’d see him smile, sometimes nodding, clearly understanding both what it took to travel across the country on short notice – and what it meant that they would do so.
Each sibling came to his bedside, right up to the final visitor, Tommy – who burst through the hospital room door in what would literally be our dad’s final minutes, our immediate family surrounding him and preparing for his final breaths. Tommy, we want you to know this, and we want you to know that we believe we speak for our father when we say this: We love you all the more for having done this. We wouldn’t change a thing. You bring joy to our family, just as your brothers and sisters do. Kevin, Patty, Michael, Dan, Ellen, Bob, Don – he loved all of you dearly, and we do too – even more for the grace you showed in your brother’s last days.
Early the morning of October 9, the day we soon realized our dad would die, a couple of us were in his room and discovered he was alert and lucid. We began speaking with him and quickly realized we would have a frank conversation.
We told him of the accident; we told him he’d broken his neck. A man of medicine, he asked the right question: “What’s the prognosis?” We didn’t generalize or mince words; we told him: “You severed your spinal cord.” And sure enough, he again asked the right question: “How high?” We told him it was at C2, and he closed his eyes and nodded, clearly understanding the gravity. And so he asked, once again, the right question, “Am I going to die?”
After we explained that, yes, he would likely die from this injury, he made a request that, given his upbringing and background, made all the sense in the world: He asked for a priest.
This request was borne of a life spent as a practicing Catholic. Through the years his relationship to some of the Church’s teachings ebbed and flowed, but he grew only more devoted to its commitment to social justice and outreach to the poor.
Put another way, he loved our new Pope.
And so Father Robinson, a priest based in – Sacramento – came at short notice to the hospital, where he granted our dad absolution and administered the Anointing of the Sick. The fourteen of us in the room joined hands and slowly, so that our dad could keep up, said the Our Father. After the “Amen,” he smiled, and closed his eyes, and fell asleep, exhausted.
In his last few days our dad received visits from a number of former colleagues. Coworkers called and emailed and posted to CaringBridge, speaking of his drive and his competence, but mostly of his compassion and warmth. He’d spent forty years launching and fostering careers, coaching and mentoring others and generally putting faith in the people he worked with.
Dad’s commitment to his career grew from his degree in physiology and, we believe, his determination to help others. Indeed, in the entryway of Physio Control, the company where he spent thirteen years, a sign hung reading, simply, “Our mission is to save lives.”
Dad spent his career in medicine, surrounded by good friends and talented professionals, many of whom came to Sacramento to visit him in his last days. How fitting, then, that in the last days of his life he was surrounded not only by many of the machines that he brought to hospitals around the world during his career, but also by a remarkable team of doctors and nurses at UC Davis Med Center – to them, and to family and friends who supported him during his last days, we say thank you for helping our dad end his life in comfort and utter dignity.
Paralleling Dad’s career in heath care was his commitment to keeping himself healthy through exercise. As most of you are well aware, he was known for being the fittest and fastest sixty-seven year-old – or fifty year-old, or forty year-old – headed up any hill around Portland.
Dad’s fitness came at a price. He didn’t spend his Saturdays coaching our little league games; he would be spending hours on a long training run. But it was a price worth paying; long after we might have forgotten kicking a soccer ball or playing catch on a summer afternoon, we still vividly remember standing along the final mile of a marathon, waiting in a Seattle drizzle – but never for too long, for he’d always be one of the first finishers, and other kids would turn to us and ask, incredulous, “That’s your dad?”
Indeed: he was fast! Faster than we ever were or ever will be. Ran a 2:46 marathon and a 34:40 10K. To achieve this he drew on that drive, that dedication; surely he wasn’t a natural, but he could dig deeper than most anyone else.
Dad’s athletic accomplishments inspired us, and they formed a connection that we drew on until just a couple of days before his accident, when he and Mike went for a bike ride together, pushing against the wind, trying to catch up to a rider in front of them. Mike admits now that he was more than a little challenged by his nearly sixty-eight year-old dad on that bike ride.
Of course, running formed a final connection for Dad when he met Julius Achon, an Olympic runner from Uganda, about six years ago. In Julius, a Ugandan boy soldier who went on to become captain of Uganda’s Olympic team, our father found a close friend.
In working with Julius to build the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund, Dad found a Second Act that would draw on all of his life’s pursuits: He would draw on his family, who formed the organization’s support foundation – and he grew his family, as Julius and his wife Grace began to call our parents “Dad and Mum.” His faith grew stronger as he and Julius witnessed what seemed to be miraculous growth of the organization. He drew on expertise and connections built over a forty-year career in health care to establish the Kristina Health Clinic. And wherever they went, our dad and Julius ran; they ran with elite athletes from Nike who got behind the project, and they ran with the Ugandan orphans whose lives were saved by it.
Reading Julius’ final email to our father was one of the toughest things we’ll ever do. As you will hear, it is heartfelt, and sorrowful and hopeful, all at the same time. Here is what Julius wrote to our dad they day before he passed away:
“We want you to know that we dearly love you and appreciate you, first for being our dad in a foreign country and for loving us with your family without any reservation. You have been a dad, a friend and more so a mentor. I want to promise you that I will ensure that your hard work is not in vain, I will continue with the clinic project, which is your pride and joy.
“Dad at this moment we have so many questions, but we must simply trust the maker of our hearts. Romans 8:28 says all things work together for good to all those who love the Lord, so be comforted that all will be well with mum and the family and the foundation as we commit every thing in God’s hands.”
We share Julius’ conviction that the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund will live on well beyond our dad’s leadership, and we thank the many people in this room who have lent their support.
Growing up and in recent years, we saw our dad exhibit discipline, drive, a commitment to his family, compassion – but he also exhibited a sense of affection that you might not expect from a hard-charging executive. He was a hand-holder and a hugger with family members and beyond; he understood the power of human touch to grant comfort and to put people at ease.
Here is what his friend Maya Murayama wrote on CaringBridge:
“The first time I visited you from Japan was 20 years ago. You were so generous you let me stay at your house. When you came home you always hold Angela and kissed her in the kitchen and every time I saw you kissing I was blushing. It was too hot for 18 year old Japanese girl, I’d never seen anyone kissing except on TV!
“The second time I visited you was after I got married to Gen. We went to Seattle to watch Ichiro and after the game you and Angela were so natural holding hands walking in front of us. I remember I told Gen that it is amazing you two were still so loving each other after so many years, and we wanted to be like you when we got older.
“The third time we visited you in Portland was 2 years ago with my child Rei. You carried Rei on your shoulder and you were with Rei just as a real grandfather.”
Dad retained that sense of affection until he breathed his last breath: When friends and family would visit his bedside, he would mouth the words, “Hold my hand.” We had to remind him many times that he couldn’t feel them holding his hand. Before long he started asking them: “Hold my head.” And so he spent his final hours always with at least one hand, and sometimes three or four, holding his head.
Maya had it right: our dad showed affection to many people, especially to his family, and most of all to our mom Angela. Our dad spun in many orbits – work, running, family, community, friends – but mom has always been the sunshine from which he drew his energy. Mom made it all possible not by working behind the scenes, but by working alongside him.
She prepared remarkable dinners for visiting businessmen who would later become clients; she ate goat on Thanksgiving in Uganda. When she married our dad, she knew she was getting the whole package: the love, and the commitment to family, but of course the drive, discipline and ambition as well. She has told us that he prepared her for this time, this time not alone, but without her husband Jim. He prepared her with weeks at Executive Education programs, and while running a company in Chicago, and by traveling to Uganda for weeks at a time.
It was Mom who gave him the final go-ahead. On his final day with us, she leaned down to him and promised him that we – and she – would be alright. She told him: “You’re the CEO. We’re all making this decision together, but you’re our leader. We’ll follow your lead.” Dad nodded his reassurance to her.
There’s so much more to tell you; so much more that we loved about our dad. But just as he reassured us in his final hours, we’ll leave you with one reassuring reminder: Dad died content. Months before he would pass away, well before we thought it would ever be relevant, he told our mom that if anything were to happen to him on his next trip to Uganda, she need not worry: all was secure for her, and he’d lived the best life anyone could hope for, accomplishing all that God had laid out for him. And on his deathbed, he said two things to everyone who visited him: First, he thanked them for coming, And then he told them: I’m at peace.
We are deeply aggrieved. For all this talk of how Jim Fee left this life content and at peace, we feel strongly that he was taken too early. At 68 he was only getting better: becoming even more affectionate, riding his bike faster, and literally searching for ways in which he could become a better person. But we draw inspiration from his life and solace from the way he died. We are ever grateful for the countless gifts he gave us and for those he gave others, nearby and around the world. We look forward to sharing our gratitude with all of you, and to carrying his legacy forward for years to come.

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50 Year Reunion Questionnaire Response:

Wonderful to see the St. Ethelreda class of 1959 at last Summer’s 50th. A piece of me wishes I still lived in Chicago to be able to spend time with my classmates- especially after our special evening.

After 40 years in the medical electronics industry, I retired last May 8th and on the 9th the family headed for Italy (minus the 5 grandkids). Click the photo to the right of Angela, our children and spouses (and Memo the cook) to enlarge it.

We have lived in Portland, Oregon since 1988; fortunately two of our children live in Portland and the other in Oakland, CA, so we are officially a West Coast family. If anyone plans to visit Portland and the beautiful Pacific Northwest, please do email, we would love visitors.

The past two years I have been actively involved in an orphanage and medical clinic in Uganda partnering with a great runner and even greater humanitarian from Uganda named Julius Achon. In January, Julius and I traveled to Uganda to work with the orphanage and begin planning to build a clinic in Julius’s village, Awake, in Northern Uganda. We will be heading back to Uganda in November and this time will visit a game park (although I am sure it will not match Sue Brown Bennett’s experience featured on the website). Please visit our website www.achonugandachildren.org

25 Year Reunion Questionnaire Response:

Married to Angela … 3 children (Michael 13, David 10, and Molly 6). Vice-President of Sales &
Technical Service with Physio Control Corp. Marquette University B.S. in 1967 and Medical College at Wisconsin for an
M.S. in 1969. Enjoy marathon running, mountain climbing, traveling and spending time with my family. Joined Baxter
Labs 1970 moved to Davenport, 1972 promoted and moved to Minneapolis. 1974 joined Physio Control, 1976 promoted and
moved to Atlanta, 1978 promoted and moved to New York, 1978 promoted and moved to Seattle, 1980 promoted, 1982 promoted
to present position. Living in Redmond, Washington.

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