Jim Saunders Eulogy.

 

Jim Saunders Eulogy, Feb 19, 2022, Memorial Service at The Texas Route 66 Visitor Center.

I met Jim at an art show and art was the foundation of our friendship.  I consider Jim to be among the finest artist that I know and if you know Jim's or my friends, this is the highest of praise.  Many of you are wondering am I talking about paintings or drawings?  No, Jim took his craft of metallurgy and stone cutting to a level of mastery that few people achieve. Jim's jewelry was nothing short of genius art.

The first words out of his mouth when I met him as he introduced himself to me was that he was the biggest man in turquoise, at least if you weighed him by the pound.

Jim had three great loves in life. 

Obviously if you knew him, one was jewelry but most specifically turquoise.

The next great love Jim had was life.  As you watch the video of his life you will see him at ballgames, music concerts, on the wharf at oceans, races, art shows, Jim embraced the good stuff of life with gusto and joy. He had an easy grin and marvelous laugh.  Jim embraced life on his own terms and did so deeply with relish.

His other great love?  Rebecca and his family.  Jim deeply loved his wife.  If you watch the slide show everywhere he went, he went with her and that silly grin on his face in those photos are of a man smitten with just one woman, Rebecca.

Ben Franklin once said that most men die at 20 and are not buried until they are 70.  He was speaking of those who live the common life, work the 8 to 5 jobs, follow by what society considers normal, live without passion.  He was not speaking of Jim Saunders.  Jim lived a full life until the day his body quit this January.  All of us die but few of us really and deeply live.  My friend Jim Saunders lived fully and deeply.

Jim had a marvelous gift.  He would dig in the desert in one of his mines find a rough rock like this and lick it, he would turn it over and over and smell it and just like that almost with spiritual uncanniness he could see inside the rock something that no one else could. 

And he would set out cutting and chiseling and then grinding and miraculously this rough, common looking stone would suddenly become something miraculous and a thing of beauty.

But that wasn’t enough, he would add to it, silver, copper, leather: whatever his wild imagination could fathom and suddenly this became something beyond beautiful.  It would become a masterpiece.

Jim, like all of us, are rocks in the rough.  Our character has rough and ugly edges, it is for G-d to see into our rough nature and pull out the unpolished stone the beauty within.  Like all of us, if you judged Jim by any one day in the process before the finished product, you would see something rough, perhaps ugly and unpolished.  If you are remembering something ugly of Jim’s life, just remember it was but one day in that process of G-d's grinding and polishing of his soul, just like yours and look past it, remember the beauty.

In life, perfection isn’t demanded of G-d, only progress.  And Jim worked daily in small and large steps in allowing G-d to polish his soul and like us all some days he was more polished than other, but he never stopped trying to allow G-d to work those rough edges. 

Jim and I received treatment for cancer together and that allowed me to get to know Mr. Saunders on a level I think few really did.  Jim was very vulnerable to me and opened up about his fears and regrets.  I can tell you something I learned in those conversations. Regardless of how rough he was on the outside, to create a masterpiece of the level Jim did would require that he had a beautiful soul and his was one of the kindest, biggest, most engaging hearts of any man I knew.

Jim and I had different faiths, but I know that Jim was absolutely fearless in facing death, he had no doubts where he was going after this life.  That comes from a deep abiding faith and having made a peace with his Creator that very few have. 

It is said that great minds talk about ideas.  Average minds, discuss events and small minds talk about people.  I can’t really remember Jim talking about other people or events. His mind churned ideas.  He didn’t want to just be the best turquoise cutter, he wanted to be the king of turquoise and set out to buy the mines so he could control his art from inception to completion.

A friend asked me if, in fact, Jim owned all the mines he spoke of.  In reality, he owned so much more: property all over the United States.  Jim didn’t just talk about ideas he pursued them obsessively.  One great regret of his was that he was leaving so many ideas on the table untouched, half finished.  But then if you weigh a life by the measure of accomplishments, Jim’s life would weigh so much more than an average man.  His accomplishments would fill volumes.  Jim was anything but average. And that caused a problem for him.

He didn’t understand those small and average minds and they didn’t understand him.  Think back to Ben Franklin's quote, Jim didn’t die at 20 like most men do and those who don’t embrace life rarely understand those who fully embrace life like Jim did.

Here we are in a building that was created on Route 66 in 1939.  At one time that road out there had 10,000 cars a day pass by and this building as a restaurant was so busy that in the 1950s and 1960s it was open 24 hours a day.  Jim wasn’t a Johnny-come-lately to Route 66 like most modern Route 66 enthusiast, Jim grew up the son of Red Ryder the tv star.  He grew up in Little Beaver Town on Route 66.  He wasn’t someone capitalizing on the past like others, Route 66 flowed through Jim’s soul like his very blood. 

In 1985 Route 66 died.  The great Mother Road that played such a vital part in the growth of America came to an end as the Interstate took over and yet here, we are in place devoted to the history of Route 66 and almost mile by mile as you travel what is left, there are signs of that highway that live on. Route 66 is far from dead. 

Like Route 66 Jim is with us yet and his art will live on.  I look out among you and see Jim’s work in your necklaces, Jim’s stones in your rings, and Jim’s craftmanship in your bracelets, every piece not just common jewelry but truest of masterpieces. 

They are heirlooms that you will pass down to your loved ones and have such quality and craftsmanship they will be around generations after we all go to be with Jim.  You see Artists like Jim never really die.

 Jim created such beauty that will outlive us all and will continue to make the world a more beautiful place for generations to come.  Art is one of the ways that we rage, fight against the ugly in the world and Jim fought hard to leave this world much more beautiful than he found it.

Here Is to Jim Saunders, friend, brother, father, son, jeweler to the stars and now jeweler for G-d's crown.