This week’s column may take its toll on both Peggy and I, but because he was so well known, a fixture here in the Portage Lakes and surrounding area, I share a précis of our son’s shortened life.

I know of nothing more unnatural than your child dying before you do. Unfortunately it happens. Hence, my wife and I are with a heavy heart recalling the child we just lost. I’m not so sure there is any greater pain.   

Jimmy had not been well for quite some time and Peggy would check on him. When phone calls went unanswered last Tuesday, she stopped by only to find him still in bed. He had passed away during the night.  

James William (Jimmy) Bock was 52. He had been in ill health for at least a year. He leaves two children, a daughter, Morgan, 20 and a son, Mitchell, 17, and among others who loved him, more friends whom I have neither room in this column, nor a well enough memory to list. To his many friends he was known simply as "Jimby."

When Peggy and I met, Jimmy was five. Raising him, I felt privileged to have been one of his parents for 47 years. As we bonded, he became more of a son than a stepson. His children consider me as one of their grandfathers.

While Morgan and Mitchell are struggling with their sudden loss, Peggy appears to be holding her own and seems to be masking her devastation as well as can be expected. Losing her only son suddenly, came as quite a shock. I wish I could tell her I honestly feel her pain, but not being in her shoes I can only imagine what it must be like.

Jimmy was a beautiful child. He was a people person. He loved everyone and was quick to organize get-togethers, especially summer corn roasts and open campfires. I’ve never seen him display a mean streak. He had a heart of gold and made friends easily. He thought of nothing to stop whatever it was he was doing to help another. He was full of life, inquisitive, quick to learn and always ready with a smile or an unexpected chuckle. And even though I was his stepfather, I was nevertheless blessed with being so, and deeply honored to call him one of my own.

Jimmy loved sports almost to a fault. I helped coach him in basketball, football and baseball where he once pitched a no-hitter. Of course being little league, he walked twenty-seven, but still it was a no-hitter. And so I began calling him "Living Legend," as in a living legend of your own kind. That Christmas I gave him a money clip with the words, "LIVING LEGEND" engraved. Forty years later I was surprised to learn he still had it. It became one of his most cherished childhood mementos.   

Shortly after we moved here in the early 1970s, Jimmy fell in love with the water and especially the Portage Lakes. He loved fishing, waterskiing, jetskiing, swimming, canoeing, snowmobiling and just about anything that had to do with the lakes. At Coventry High School in the early 1980s he set the school swimming record in the 100 yard butterfly and two more  records. The last time I checked, one was still standing.

So good was Jimmy at swimming that after finishing high school he won a full boat swimming scholarship to the University of Akron and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass media communications. Whenever he’d come up with a brilliant idea, I’d look at him and say one word, "College!" And then he’d give me one of his patented chuckles.

He made friends so easily. There were many, not only here at the lakes, but elsewhere who knew him well. Some, I’ve heard, have considered him to be a local water icon. Perhaps he was. Regardless, I have never met anyone who had ever said an ill word against him. The child had no enemies.

With the Reverend Dr. Mark Ruppert officiating, funeral services were handled last Saturday at the Schermesser Funeral Home in Green.

Finally, let me remind you that before retiring for the night, be sure to hug your children. You just never know.

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