Everybody Loved Jim Sweetwood

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Submitted by Mike Rost (DU ’73) February 2019

 

Editing note from Tim Finn (’75): Brother Jim Sweetwood (’73) died July 21, 2018 from complications related to a long bout with liver cancer. He lived and worked in the Philadelphia area as an investment advisor and primarily as a loving husband & father. DU Brother Mike Rost (’73), submits the below memories of his friend and DU Brother. Appended to Mike’s remarks are excerpts from an email to Mike from Brother Jim Taylor (’72) regarding Sweets and his memorial service.

Sweets, Tweets, Sweeter, Tweetwood, The Sweetsman. They were all Jim Sweetwood, a personality too big for just one nickname.

Jim had a lighting fast, refined wit. With a quick phrase, perceptive observation and a touch of sarcasm, he could turn an everyday occurrence into a comic routine. However, his best comedy was fleeting and, unfortunately, now lost to my memory. You really did have to be there.

At his core, Jim was genuinely compassionate, clever, and intelligent. Jim was also a great athlete. A year after leading Northeast High School to a Public League championship, Jim could still throw a football across West Halls quad, hitting a target the size of a postcard at 30 yards.

Jim was such a low-key, personable human being that things just seemed to happen to him through no fault of his own. We sometimes said, “That could only happen to Sweetwood” or, “That’s so Sweetwood,” or “God protects drunks, little children, and Jim Sweetwood.”

Once, while working a summer construction job at Philadelphia’s City Hall, Jim put a jackhammer through his boot but missed his foot completely.

Once, while driving the NJ Turnpike late at night, Jim feel asleep in the toll booth, but was helped by a friendly attendant, who gave him coffee and a place to rest.

Once, while responding to a distress plea from a “gypsy women” in a Philadelphia storefront, Jim got jostled and had his pockets picked.

Once, while helping a blind man find a urinal in the men’s room of the Harrisburg bus terminal, Jim got peed on.

Once Jim pulled an all-nighter to study for an exam, but in the class after, he fell into deep sleep and woke up screaming. According to Jim, the professor wasn’t amused. His classmates were.

Jim had a nervous habit of twirling his hair by tracing little circles on his head with his index finger. Once, while sitting on the floor of his room with his back and head against his bed, Jim twirled his hair into his bedsprings. We had to cut him out, but Jim is credited with having invented the mullet. As far as I know his hair is still in that bed spring in the fraternity house.

In college, Jim had a huge 1967 Buick Le Sabre convertible nicknamed Titanic, aka “The Sweetsmobile.” That car was great for mooning, urinating over the side, or trying to meet girls, occasionally all at the same time. Once in a parking garage, Jim caught Titanic’s bumper on a pillar. The corner of the bumper was bent straight back at a 90° angle. Undeterred, Jimmy simply drove Titanic back into the pillar, straightening the bumper with little noticeable damage.

Once, while driving The Sweetsmobile to a wedding reception with the top down, Jim was approached by a panhandler who wanted money “to get drunk.” Jim promptly invited the man to come along. The panhandler appeared to have a great time at the reception, but frequently argued with the bartender about the size and number of his drinks. At the end of the evening Jim found the panhandler asleep at a table. Jim woke him and asked where he wanted to be dropped off. Half asleep the man said, “Take me to my sister’s house,” and passed out again. Jim woke the man again and asked, “Where does you sister live?” The man answered, “Connecticut.” On the third try the panhandler said he just wanted a place to sleep. Jim and I helped the man to the parking lot, but we were not sure where to take him. There was one other car left in the lot. Fortuately it was unlocked. Jim and I guided the man into the backseat where he went fast asleep. As we circled the parking looking for the exit, we saw the bartender heading straight for that other car. Jim sped away. I like to think it was the start of a beautiful friendship between the panhandler and the bartender.

Like many college students, Jim developed unorthodox sleep patterns. (Later in life, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea). Once asleep, Jim often found it very difficult to wake up in time for class. So Jim hid 10 alarm clocks all around his room so that he would have to get up and walk around to shut all of them off. Unfortunately, the multiple alarms weren’t always effective. It was not unusual to

pass by Jim’s room and hear a cacophony of alarm clocks. Since his room door was securely locked, we weren’t able go in to wake him.

Jim was always a witty, compassionate listener. His first apartment after college was near a tiny neighborhood bar that featured cheap drafts and C-list, almost-topless, dancers. The place was so small that the dancers had to take their breaks seated at the bar. Jim would engage the dancers in conversation. These dancers discovered that Jim was a great wit and conversationalist. They told him about their tough lives, showbiz dreams, selfish boyfriends, uncomfortable pasties, etc., etc. The dancers enjoyed talking to Jim so much, they soon started buying him beers just to keep his company and conversation. Everybody loved Jim Sweetwood.

I learned many things from Jim Sweetwood. Such as: A pair of jockey shorts pulled over your head with tennis ball tucked in each side makes a quick, easy comedy hat; Driving in a convertible, you can throw an empty beer can straight up and it will land behind the car; Schmidt’s beer gives you headaches; Never take your helmet off until you’re in the locker room.

All these things happened to Jim during college or after. Eventually he would become a great husband, father and financial advisor. That’s another chapter. But I think his sense of humor and goodwill still ripples across the universe. The world was made a better place.

 

Mike Rost (DU ’73)


Excerpt from an email to Mike Rost from Jim Taylor (DU ’72) dated August 17, 2018:

“Mike…Jim had been fighting liver cancer for a couple of years. There were many encouraging times and signs, but ultimately he went downhill fast at the end. Sender (Alan, DU ’73), Helberg (Rick, DU ’72) and I visited and took him out to a saloon when he was up to it. I even got him to a Phillies’ game a while back. He never lost his cheerfulness, never complained (though we all know he went through a lot in his life), even apologised to us on days when he wasn’t feeling particularly well. The last we saw him, it was obvious the end was near…I spoke (at his memorial), as did Gerry Smith (another childhood friend), Jim’s boys, and a couple nephews and co-workers. As you would guess, there were many stories and many touching moments as Jim was a pleasure to be with throughout his

life…Helberg (attended and he)… and I went out after for a few cocktails—that’s what Sweets would want us to do…All the best. Jim”

Personal note from Tim Finn (DU ’75): Among many pleasant memories of the short time that I spent at DU with Sweets, there was the time that I “borrowed” Sweets’ third floor room one weekend. My widowed Dad was visiting me on a home football weekend. He insisted on crashing in my Room 10 on the second floor. I was dating a sweet thing at the time, who was only in for the weekend. I needed a backup plan to accommodate my amorous expectations. Sweets fully understood and graciously offered his room to me. He made other arrangements for his own bed time. The next morning, intending to express my love for my overnight partner, I told her I would count the section lines in the wooden wall paneling of Sweets’ room, just to multiply how many times over I loved her. It was 31. That has been my lucky number ever since. To this day, my sweetheart & I exchange love missives by merely writing “31.” Trite, but true. In no small measure, I owe some of my luck in my life to Sweets, 31 times over.

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