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In Memory of Jim Duff

Written by Jeff Drake
8 · 17 · 22

Please note: In 2010 I was invited to be a speaker at a wake in Indianapolis for one of the best friends I ever had, Jim Duff. I was honored to participate. Jim and I worked together for years while at Hewlett-Packard and then into retirement, leading teams of consultants in very large projects. I provide my speech here as a testament to my fondness and respect for Jim and as a memorial to his memory. Jim’s death is the biggest reason I retired when I did in January 2011.

Good afternoon.

My name is Jeff Drake. I have had the great pleasure and honor of knowing and working closely with Jim for the past 20 years.

It is a sign of the times perhaps, that Jim and I would forge the strongest of friendships without ever having socialized much at all outside of the context of our work. During the past month, as I struggled with my grief,  I have pondered on this at some length, and was reminded of another time in my life when I forged similar bonds with men I was stationed with during my two tours of duty in Vietnam, men like Jim; men I called my brothers.

Jim and I fortunately, didn’t have to experience the horrors of war to build our friendship. Yet, like my experience with my brothers-in-arms, Jim and I bonded over the things we shared or of which we felt strongly. Some of these things were work-related, so you may or may not be aware of them. Things like:

  • The immense satisfaction Jim felt from a job done well.
  • A total dedication to constantly improving the quality of his work.
  • A passion for learning, increasing his subject knowledge and doing everything he could to make the complex seem plain for both our customers and our HP teammates. It’s hard to describe the synergy that Jim and I had with our areas of expertise. Either one of us could throw out a topic for analysis and discussion and before we knew it, we’d been at it for hours. With my background in Philosophy and Jim’s analytical acuity, we could talk any subject to death quite easily and often did. Most often we would arrive at a position that was clear and could be articulated.
  • A willingness to go “the extra mile” to meet his project commitments, often resulting in long hours and much time away from home. My wife reminded me more than once over the years, that there were long periods of time when I probably spent more time with Jim than I did with her. I suspect she’s right and I suspect Kirsten would feel the same.

It was all of these things that made Jim a very valuable and respected resource.

Other things we shared were life-related and equally important to both of us. Things like:

  • Our love of good old fashioned rock music. Jim was always cursing me in jest, for my having caused him to become “addicted” to Porcupine Tree. Neither of us could ever listen to too much Porcupine Tree.
  • And talking politics. Although on different sides of most political arguments, we loved to engage in meaningful debates on a variety of political topics. We would each get our licks in and while few arguments were ever settled, we both enjoyed the experience immensely and never had an argument we couldn’t easily recover from. When we were both at HP, our debates were often carried out in email and would draw a wide audience of our peers, some of whom asked to be copied just to enjoy the show. I would frequently tell Jim, with a smile on my face, that I was always surprised by how someone so brilliant could be so wrong.
  • And I can’t forget “humor.” To be perfectly honest, one of the biggest reasons Jim and I loved to work together was that we just enjoyed each other’s company and shared the same humor and wit. It didn’t matter if we were working our butts off, or if we were struggling with serious project issues, or had been handed a difficult job which few could do, we always managed to have a good time. I have been fortunate over the past couple years to have spent a lot of time working at home in my office, with Jim on the phone. My wife would often say to me when I’d emerge from my office, “You were talking to Jim, weren’t you?” I’d ask her how she knew that, and she’d respond, “Because I could hear you laughing.”

It was these things that made Jim a terrific friend and work companion.

Recounting any memory I have of Jim would not be complete without mentioning the great respect I had for him not only as a very good friend, but more importantly, as a man. Jim’s sense of honor, his honesty, and his sense of responsibility, was really quite remarkable. The only quality of Jim’s that outshined all of these, and everything I have already told you about, is his love for, and his dedication to his wife, Kirsten, and his children: Molly, Jenny and Hannah.

In fact, there is only one subject that could cause Jim to get animated and even well-up with tears, and that’s whenever he talked about his family, especially his kids. His pride and love for his wife and kids was immeasurable and it was apparent whenever he spoke of you.

Although the author of this statement is unknown for sure, I immediately thought of Jim’s family when I heard it and I thought I’d share it with you today:

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all, mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

And I want you girls to know that the love and pleasure Jim so obviously experienced whenever he spoke of you, took his breath away, each and every time.

Jim, you will be missed.

Thank you.

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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.
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