One November afternoon in 2014, I ran into Jimmy Smith at the Stadium branch of Bank of Ann Arbor. He was kidding around with the tellers, putting some kind of gizmo on the counter, pressing a button so that it suddenly barked. It cracked up the tellers, even as they looked close to crying. Everyone knew he had cancer, and that it had advanced. He was clearing out his house, he told them, “So my wife doesn’t have to do it.” Afterwards, when we chatted in the parking lot, he told me, “The doc said the plane is ready for takeoff.” He said it without drama.
I had seen Jimmy working at the Washtenaw Dairy for years, talking loudly to customers, telling stories, sometimes arguing with a buddy as he scooped ice cream or poured my 85-cent cup of coffee. It was hard to believe he was a co-owner of the Dairy because he seemed like an overgrown kid. When he started going for chemotherapy at U-M Hospital, I learned he was bringing along doughnuts for sick kids and hospital staff. He was losing pounds but to me he was gaining in years.
This photo was taken in the Bank of Ann Arbor parking lot. I don’t know what the weird skeletal head is, but I bet he found a good home for it.