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Woodworking: This last goodbye a reminder of many teachable and some very funny moments

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opinion River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
River Falls Journal
Woodworking: This last goodbye a reminder of many teachable and some very funny moments
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

One of the great things about funerals is that when you attend them, you find out all kinds of good stuff about the deceased that you never knew before.


My wife and I were saddened last December to learn that our good friend and neighbor Jim Delaplain had gone to his reward, after which we were rewarded with all kind of memories of this incredibly gifted man.

At the Dish and the Spoon Café, Nick Jadinak told me about it, about how he'd talked to Jim the day before he passed on and said he had said he was fine.

I told Nick he'd been at our house just a week ago and said he was feeling fine. We commiserated and concluded that something good must come of his leaving us.

We decided it'll take a heavy burden off the FBI.

Jim was proud of the fact that he was on J. Edgar Hoover's dance card of suspicious characters -- he had been part of a movement to racially integrate the University of Oklahoma when he was a student there in the mid-1940s.

Later that day, I dropped in at Johnnie's Bar where folks were talking about Jim:

"I took his course in "The Bible as Literature," said one. "It was the best course I had at the U."

Another: "A lot of folks at the UWRF think they're so dad-blamed intellectual. Jim Delaplain was a true intellectual. He never stopped learning and he never stopped teaching."

That became apparent at Jim's memorial service at the Unitarian Universalist Church that was packed with people and cars that filled the parking lot and up and down the Highway 65.

Jim's son Jim, the Minneapolis lawyer, recalled how his father kept taking courses at the University of Minnesota, not only during his tenure at UWRF, but after he had retired.

One of his eight children said it didn't matter what the subjects, "If Papa (all his kids who spoke at the service called him "papa") got interested in pots, he'd take pottery courses and our cupboards would fill up with cups and bowls."

That reminded me of first learning about this Jim Delaplain when we moved to River Falls.

He had just retired from UWRF and was on his way to teach at the University of Beijing in China.

How would he manage that?

At the service I learned that he admitted that Chinese was difficult, but he managed to add it to his word hoard of seven languages and that some of his Chinese students wrote to him until the day he died.

After he returned from China we got to know him better because he lived right around the corner from us and often dropped by to chat.

One night we attended a concert at the Ordway and there was Jim, decked out in a tuxedo. He was an accomplished musician and he was there to usher and hear the concert.

Later, he admitted that he'd been a bit uncomfortable the first night. Ordway officials had required that all ushers wear patent leather shoes.

Jim, as usual, was in a hurry when he bought the shoes and didn't try them on.

When he got to his locker at the Ordway he discovered that his new shoes were a pair of two lefties. He wore them anyway and soldiered on.

In his son's tribute, he said that his father might not have approved of the service because of all the tributes. He said his father said he didn't like a service "when all the mourners tried to upstage the corpse."

We laughed and laughed.

No one could upstage Jim Delaplain, dead or alive.

He just had too many facets to his character, from teaching his nephews and nieces (all of whom called him "Uncle Sonny) how to catch a possum, gleaned from his boyhood in Depression era Oklahoma -- "When you reach your hand into the hollow tree trunk, make sure you catch him by the right end" -- to encouraging them with their studies.

So adieu, James Delaplain.

Someone at the service said that you're probably already dancing with the angels. Or maybe cannonballing off the diving board at the swimming pool in Karges Gymnasium.

In his tribute your colleague Dick Beckham said you did that more than once.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.