Sorry to announce the passing of
resident storyteller,
and Caribou stalwart,
Jim Heaney.


Most people only have a few close friends over a lifetime. It hurts like hell when you lose one.


I met Jim in 1979 when I started working in the North Hollywood unemployment office. He hired me over the phone, through Mary Roman, without ever meeting me. Towards the end of the first day after six hours of orientation and signing employment documents he said “You still here?”


I soon discovered we both loved movies. Jim taught me about the movies of his youth, the movies of the 30’s and 40’s we liked, and we talked current movies. He was able to get me to see movies that I had dismissed as not worthy and to see them through his eyes. We both loved a good movie line and would often quote them to each other in different real life situations.


He taught me many managing tricks and insights. Not by directly telling me to do this or that but by just observing him. I was observing him because I was wondering, “Why the hell did he do that?” He showed me how to treat people in a humane way. He would often call where we worked a “people eating machine” but I never saw him act that way. He bent rules to help people struggling with life, with work, and the normal goings on in life.


When I transferred to Sacramento I found many people who formally worked for Jim. A dozen or more would get together from time to time and talk about the old times. They remembered Jim fondly and talked about how Jim was always caring, supportive, and cheered them on.


When I was full of myself he had a way of bringing me down to earth. He would burst my balloon in the easiest and funniest way. Sometimes I didn’t catch it for a couple of beats which made it all the funnier. He would say, “If you can’t laugh at yourself you’re missing the best jokes.”


Jim was a wonderful and funny traveling companion. He once got us both thrown out of a pub across the street from the British Museum. Another time we were stuck in traffic in some Irish city and we were trying to locate someplace he wanted to visit. He just bolted from the car never telling me where he was going or where to meet. It took a while to find him.


He wasn’t always great at advice. When asked what Sacramento was planning he would say, “Plan? Plan? There’s no plan.” Or “Cash the check.” One of the most important things he told me was never buy anything from a guy who starts off with . . . pssst.


I told him of an organization I belong to and that he was a member also. It is known as the Caribou Club. He loved the idea of it. Everyone we know is a member of the herd. Life is fickle and sometimes the wolf gets one of our members. Our motto is “I don’t have to out run the wolf. I just have to out run you.” He found a Randolph Scott movie poster from the movie “Cariboo Trail”. Once he knew about it he wanted to be in the poster. We then created one for him where he was renamed Billy Flynn from the play and movie Chicago. His co-stars were W.C. Fields characters from a couple of his films. Another co-star was Joe Banks from the Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks movie “Joe Vs. the Volcano.”


Jim spoke of his family often, bragging about his daughters and grandchildren. When he wasn’t bragging he was telling funny stories about his grandchildren.


Jim told me once that he wanted to promote me but that it was being blocked by higher ups. I told him “Hell Jim, I don’t care. I expect us to be friends a lot longer than we will be co-workers.” It has been my distinct good fortune for that to come true. He has been my friend for 35 years.

Dennis Watson