October 13, 1947 – June 6, 2012
Ended a hard-fought battle with cancer on June 6, 2012 in the company of his wife of 28 years, Velma Smith. Graduate of W&L High School and University of Virginia, Jim left the gift of two dear children and three grandchildren. He is survived by his daughter, Shannon Gish (Harvey), his son, Evan McGurrin, his mother, Lois McGurrin, two sisters, Kathy Dunlap and Peggy [McGurrin](Pat Turvey), as well as his wife. He loved his three grandkids, Sam, Chase and Gage Gish, as well as his nieces and nephews, Gen, Cary, Jon, Brian, Erin, Chris and Pete and all their great kids. Most recently, Jim worked at the Henry L. Stimson Center and wrote online as the DC Gadgets Examiner. Friends may call on Sunday, June 10, 2012 from 2 to 4 p.m. with a memorial service at 4 p.m. at Murphy Falls Church Funeral Home, 1102 W. Broad Street, Falls Church, VA. In lieu of flowers, Jim asked people to give to a charity of their choice or to someone in need. ~ Published in The Washington Post from June 8 to June 10, 2012
Things People Might Want to Know About Jim ~ Velma Smith
…He read the Bible, The Toa, the Book of Mormon, Plato, Asimov and Vonnegut and tuned into Joel Osteen on many a Sunday morning.
…He sang loudly and joyfully in the shower, sometimes to the bewilderment of people walking down the sidewalk in front of our house. He shocked the priest at his father’s funeral as he led a rousing rendition of the Georgia Tech fight song.
…He liked to fall asleep with Perry Mason or Alfred Hitchcock in the background, and often watched Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles – even after Evan was off to college.
…He always had to fly a kite at the beach, loved star-gazing from the hot tub and relished the sound of teenagers laughing in the hot tub long after we had gone to bed.
…He like his Guinness at room temperature with a slow pour – just like in Ireland. He loved his mother’s pea soup and lasagna, Fritos, donut holes and lima beans.
…He ordered a dozen pairs of identical socks so he wouldn’t have to worry about finding the mates.
…He kept cards and mementos from his children and grandchildren scattered about the house. It took more than 20 years to convince him to toss the long-faded sheet of craft paper that Shannon and her friends wrapped around his car one day.
…He was always glad when Gen, Cary, Jonny and then Brian and Erin wanted Uncle Jimmy to take them to the amusement park at the beach or the mountains.
…Though he was no early riser, he loved driving Evan and his friends to school, quietly listening to their chatter or their silence.
…He wrote computer programs, poetry and science fiction. He worked hard and napped well – preferably in his recliner.
…He was generous to the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, all manner of charities, at least a quarter of the Democratic candidates for office and many a stranger on the street.
…He insisted on driving himself to most of his 40 radiation treatments – usually wearing his lucky Sponge Bob underwear or his Power Ranger T-shirt. He never once said why me, and he waited nearly 40 minutes to say thank you to that special radiation tech.
…He was at peace with dying but sad to leave us. He wanted jokes at his funeral and suggested mixing his ashes with the dog’s and scattering them in the back yard rain garden.
…He loved us all. He was the love of my life and I will miss him always.
As many of you know, our father was a wonderfully multi-faceted man with a great sense of humor and a deeply philosophical soul. He loved music, good friends, his family and a bottle of Irish Guinness. And when all of those happened to combine on a beach house deck with guitars strumming to the gentle ocean waves, then - as John Prine would say - he was “already in heaven.”
I know we have all had many moments either laughing out loud or rolling our eyes and grunting at his random wit and one liners. One of his favorite jokes, which he told me on more than one occasion, was one that, actually, Evan made up when he was 5 or 6 years old:
“Dad, why did the red light turn green?”
“Because it had to go.”
The context, as much as the budding potty humor, made our Dad beam with fatherly pride. You can only imagine his delight when his three cherished grandsons reached the age of appreciating those jokes as well. True grandfather/grandson bonding moments.
Many of you might also remember that he could pull off a great impersonation of the eccentric character, Jim, from the 1970’s show Taxi. (For those of you from later generations, think of Seinfeld’s Kramer in a 1970’s denim jacket and jeans.)
Then there were those idiosyncrasies which were as identifiable to him as a thumb print. How many of us, for instance, received Christmas or birthday gifts adorned with his special wrapping paper? You know the one I mean. It typically came from the Metro section of the Washington Post.
And then there were his tennis shoes repurposed into clogs. Who knew that those seemingly silly pair of Nikes with the heals cut out of them would one day actually be a fashion trend? Next time we see a pair of those sneaker clogs, let’s think of him. I know it would make him smile. And probably make us smile too.
Our father is also known for his ecumenical life philosophy. Additionally, I have heard him described as being a spiritual person, though not a religious one. But if you don’t mind me saying, I have another perspective about that. In the book of James in the Bible, pure religion is defined by how well we care for the poor and needy. And if that is true – and I believe that it is – than my father was among the most religious men I have ever known. There are too many examples for me to mention here of the way he practiced his religion. But all of us, in one way or another, benefited from it.
He is, more than anything else, a man who loves his family and friends. He had a graceful way of – using another John Prine Lyric – helping us recognize the there’s “gold inside of” us and in others. He really loved all of us. And I believe – and I know he believed – quoting from my own faith, that “families are forever” and that all our loving “relationships will be perpetuated beyond the grave"; that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there.” I have a sure hope in that reunion for all of us with my Dad one day.
Over the past few days, I have read and re-read one of his last emails to me. Though meant as words from a loving father to his daughter, I felt they were sentiments he would have shared with each of us. And so, I share them now from him to you:
It’s meant the world to me to hear your loving thoughts, and to have the chance to say some things to you . . . My heart is at rest, that although there might be more that could be said, I think we’ve said plenty to allow whatever comes, to pass through us in peace, with a little sadness. What I think I really want to be sure to say is what I will miss. Our wide ranging conversational explorations on all our crazy interests, just being with you, enjoying conversation, watching a movie, dinner at a restaurant, visiting a park, beach vacations, just growing older together, seeing our clan continue to grow and enjoying the surprises of the shapes and directions it takes. But blessed that I got as much as I did, and I will just be a part of it in a different way. Please think of me if you ever want to share a joy or a doubt, and I’ll share what I can of helpful light, but if nothing else shine your father’s unconditional love around you.
So this Christmas, perhaps my own family will place a special box wrapped in newspaper under the tree, tell a few one liners, share of our good fortune with a person in need and “fill the parting glass” to James Ross McGurrin. My beloved Father and friend to us all.
“It takes a true man to be a father. You were the best I could ever ask for. We'll all miss you deeply, but may your spirit carry on. Farewell Dad.” ~ My Brother Evan McGurrin
Well I'm thinking I'm knowing that I gotta be going
You know I hate to say so long.
It gives me an ocean of mixed up emotion
I'll have to work it out in a song.
Well I'm leaving a lot for the little I got
But you know a lot a little will do
And if you give me your love
I'll let it shine up above
And light my way back home to you.
Cause you got gold
Gold inside of you
Cause you got gold
Gold inside of you
Well I got some
Gold inside me too
The Happy Grandpa Song ~ Zac Brown Band with Jimmy Buffet
Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there's a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise
Of all the money that e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I've ever done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be to you all.
So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befalls
And gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all
But since it fell unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be to you all.
““How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – A.A. Milne
I miss you so much, Dad. And we all love you forever.