Jim McCue
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Judy Klevorn and Jim McCue on their wedding day

Jim McCue

Written by Rick Archer
March 2014

On March 24, 2014, I received the news that my friend Jim McCue had passed away due to complications with heart surgery.

Here is a letter I received from Jim's wife Judy.

From: Judy Klevorn
Sent: Monday, March 24, 2014 10:27 AM
To: Rick Archer;
Subject: Jim McCue

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is with a heavy heart that I share this news. Jim McCue passed away Wednesday afternoon March 19th at the age of 62. After a challenging bypass surgery while awaiting a heart transplant our lord came to receive him from St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.

As requested a formal funeral service will not be held however the family is planning a small service for this weekend and a full memorial with luncheon Saturday March 29th at 11am.

Cypress Crossings Christian Church
15751 Cypress Rosehill Rd
Cypress, TX 77429
(281) 304-4599

I thank you on behalf of the entire family for your love and support. He will truly be missed

Rick Archer's Note:  I did not know Jim very well.  And I find myself feeling embarrassed because Jim once told me that he and his wife Judy took lessons at SSQQ-Bissonnet for two years back in 2008-2009.  I am not quite sure why our paths didn't cross enough for me to make a better connection back in those days, but just add it to my list of regrets about Jim's passing.

I knew Jim and Judy better the second time around.  They began taking classes from me again in November 2012.  They continued taking classes from me intermittently throughout 2013. 

I believe for the past year they have alternated between my classes and classes taught by my friend Gary Richardson. 


Rick's Note: The purpose of sharing these emails is to show the utter normalcy of Jim and Judy's life throughout 2013.  There is no hint of medical issues. I had not the slightest inkling that Jim had serious medical issues. 

There are several other points that can be surmised here.  One is that Jim and Judy were two very busy professionals.  Second, Jim and Judy traveled a great deal. They frequently had to miss a week of dance class or a month of dance class, but they always came back to it when they had the time. 

From: Judy K
Sent: Sunday,
November 04, 2012 12:42 PM
To: rick@ssqq.com
Subject: Sign us up

Hi Rick,
We've been away for a while and have missed dancing. We also miss you, too
We, Jim & Judy, want to do the Intermediate western polka again and see if we remember anything.

Rick's Reply:

GREAT! I will see you at Chapelwood on Monday evening. Rick

From: Judy K
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2012 9:15 AM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Sundance Newsletter - Western Dancing at Chandelier this Saturday!

Jim & Judy here. Just to let you know, if it's the same dance, we used to do the "Barn Dance" to the "Watermelon Crawl", about twice a month back in Michigan.

If you remember, I told you that when I met Jim I told him he had to learn to dance. I had belonged to a very large single group that had dances every two weeks. We did a lot of mixers and line dances so if you didn't have a partner you could still get out on the floor. The barn dance was one.

Jim was a very good sport and tried learning them all. The Barn Dance was the easiest. I'll see if I can twist his arm get Jim to your open house.

From: Judy K
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 9:44 AM
To: rick@ssqq.com
Subject: sign us up

Judy & Jim here, sign us up for the slow dance class. :-)

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday,
December 06, 2012 11:16 AM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Sundance Newsletter - the April 2013 Mariner Cruise is a Go


Jim & I won't be there tonight. I have some nasty Bug which has decided to makes its home in my chest, in addition to a horrible cough. Don't think you or anyone else wants me breathing on anyone. I just hope Jim doesn't get it.
The April cruise sounds wonderful but since it's the week before tax deadline, that takes precedence. Hope to see you Monday.
Judy & Jim

PS I am not possessive ,but Jim has to take two engineers from Taiwan out to dinner tonight while I drink chicken soup.

Rick's Reply:

Hope you feel better. Send Jim over on his own if his date w the engineers falls thru.

(Rick's Note: At this point, Jim and Judy were taking Sophisticated Slow Dance from me here at my home dance studio.  Previously they had been taking Synchronized Polka and Western Polka at Chapelwood Church)



From: Judy K
Sent: Wednesday,
March 06, 2013 12:55 PM
To: rick@ssqq.com
Subject: March classes Judy & Jim

Hi Rick

I did fly back from the lands of ice & snow (every day!) We drove to Chapelwood Monday and discovered= NO class. We want to attend your Thursday Western Waltz class. Hope there is room.

So glad to be home. See you then.

Rick's Reply:

I am so sorry about Chapelwood… they told me we could not have class there last Monday, but we are good for next Monday.

Love to have you in the Waltz class… you will have a ball!!


From: Judy K
Sent: Monday,
May 06, 2013 12:04 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: SSQQ Travel Newsletter - Announcing the Rhone River Cruise 2014

HI Rick!
Jim & I were in Cabo San Lucas and got back last night. Tax season was rough!!!  Missed dancing a lot.
Can we still get in Thursdays Western Waltz, even though we missed April??

Rick's Reply:

Absolutely!! That class is thriving. I can't help you this week because I already have a lesson scheduled at 615, but next Thursday I will donate a half hour to cover some of what you have missed.

From: Judy K
Sent: Friday, May 31, 2013 11:24 AM
To: rick@ssqq.com
Subject: western waltz

See you next Thursday in Waltz class  :-)

From: Rick Archer 
Sent: Tuesday,
July 30, 2013 10:42 AM
To: Judy K
Subject: Thursday August Waltz class

Hi Judy,

I have one last Waltz class in me before I have to start all over again with a new cycle. The material is not all that difficult, and the moves are fun and practical. Now that the two of you have quite a bit of Waltz under your belt, tell Jim he will find this month easier than the previous ones.

I would be thrilled if you and Jim were up for the final round… Month 5. We start this Thursday.

(Rick's Note: At this point, Jim and Judy continued taking Western Waltz throughout the summer 2013 here at my house.  The reader needs to understand is that I typically communicated with Judy, not Jim.  That's explains why I don't feel like I ever got to know Jim as well as I would have liked.)

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:44 AM
To: Judy K
Subject: RE: Thursday August Waltz class

This is "the Final Round". I have several great Waltz patterns left and wanted to make sure they saw the Light of Day in 2013.

If you guys can make it tomorrow, I will throw in a private lesson on the house to help catch up for any time missed this month.

From: Judy K
Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 3:35 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Thursday August Waltz class

I would love to attend, but will have to discuss with Jim. We will be vacationing with my family Torch Lake, Michigan up by Mackinaw so will miss Aug 15. I am staying on another week, so will have to see if Jim will go without me. since there are 5 Thursday, I assume you start another cycle the last Thursday.

A Letter from Margaret Easley  (note: Margaret and her husband Tom took the Waltz class with Jim and Judy)

I am shattered over Jim’s death. 

I remember Jim clearly since he was in several of our classes both at Chapelwood and your house.  He was a very nice man and a terrific dancer.  I was always glad to see Jim “rotate” to me!  I didn’t know Judy as well, since the women didn’t dance with each other!  However, I know Judy has to be an exceptional person to have Jim as her mate! 

My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

Love to all, Margaret


Friday, August 30, 2013 - At the Pavillion

On the last Friday in August, my friend Gary Richardson hosted the Grateful Geezers dance party at the Pavillion. 

The Geezers play music best suited for East and West Coast Swing.  I asked my friend Susie Allen (Soileau) to dance West Coast with me on a side floor because the main floor was too crowded.  After the song was over, I looked up and saw Jim and Judy smiling at me.

I remember blushing.  I had not realized that they were watching.  You know the old saying, 'dance as if no one is watching'.  There's some truth to that.  Like anyone else, I dance better when I relax and simply try to have fun rather than show off.  Oddly enough, by not trying to show off, I do even better.  There's surely a lesson there somewhere.

At any rate, I went over to say hello.  After the Chapelwood classes earlier in the year and having them in Waltz class all summer, I felt like I had gotten to know Jim and Judy fairly well. 

After giving me a nice compliment about my dancing, Judy began to ask about our River Cruise to France scheduled for April 2014.  I answered a couple questions, and then I decided to go get the expert.  So I went back to my table and asked my wife Marla to come chat with Jim and Judy.

The three of them had a long talk.  I think I went and danced.  After the song, I came back and they were still talking.

Two days later, Jim and Judy signed up for the river cruise.  The next time I saw them in dance class, they were so excited!

A trip like this had been a dream of theirs for a long time.

SEPTEMBER 2013 - The Rhone River Cruise to France

At this point, two things happened.  First, Jim and Judy had learned from the Geezer party that they needed West Coast Swing lessons.  So they taking West Coast classes from Gary Richardson. 

The other thing that happened is that Judy K told her San Francisco friend Judy E about the trip. 

Out of the blue, Judy E decided she wanted to go to France too. 

That led to one of the best conversations I ever had with Jim.  Before dance class, Judy was busy, so I asked Jim about Judy E from California. 

Apparently there had been a high school reunion that past summer that took place out in the Bay Area.  The two Judy's had been best friends back in high school and that friendship was as strong as ever today. Jim had gotten to meet an incredibly close knit group at a "Big Chill" type private reunion party hosted by Judy E.   The way Jim's eyes lit up, that party was nothing short of sensational. It was hosted at a very wonderful wine valley estate.  Jim said he had met a half dozen couples and had the best time of his life.  In his words, "that was the best party I've ever been to!"

It must have been quite a party indeed because now something strange happened.  Out of the blue, one couple after another began to sign up for Marla's river cruise.  Obviously this was a well-heeled crowd.  After the dust settled, 9 people had signed up for the cruise.

The ringleader was Judy E.  She had talked these other four couples into going.  And get this - it was supposed to be a surprise for Judy K.  Judy was not supposed to know about it!  The plan was for Judy K and Jim to get on the river cruise ship and SURPRISE SURPRISE!!

Nine people had signed up and the only one Judy K was allowed to know about was her friend Judy E.

Well, Marla and I were both grateful.  We were grateful to Jim and Judy for passing the idea on to Judy E.  And we were grateful to Judy E for talking 8 friends into going along.

So I expressed my gratitude by writing this letter:

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, September 20, 2013 2:24 PM
To: 'judye
Subject: Thank you so much!

Hi Judy E,

I am Rick Archer, Marla’s husband.  I just got through adding the names of your friends 33/34 Thomas and Meredith Wells to the list of passengers for our France Rhone River Cruise next April.  

As I said in my most recent newsletter –

Marla and I celebrated a very special moment this past week.  Marla sold her 16th cabin on the River Cruise.  Take a guess why that is significant.

It means we now get a free cocktail party just for our group alone!!   Ta da!

I've been grinning all week long because I can't figure out why either of us cares so much.  Obviously a free cocktail party is a big deal on our regular dance cruises because everyone knows how expensive drinks are on a cruise. 

But on a cruise where the wine is free all week long, why should we even care about a free cocktail party?   I think it is ‘the thought that counts’. I think Marla and I are tickled pink because selling 16 cabins is such an incredible accomplishment.  It is fun to see a big gamble pay off.

I wish I didn't have to say this, but River Cruises are very expensive.  And then you have to add in the costly trans-Atlantic air far.  The price tag alone makes this trip very difficult to afford.  So to get 32 people to sign up for an exotic trip like this is a huge compliment to Marla.  My wife has proven to be so good at organizing these trips that people have complete confidence in her at this point.  In other words, this trip is a real milestone in Marla's career as a trip organizer.

I would like to put what Marla has done in a slightly different light.  This longboat only holds 190 passengers.  That means 1 out of every 6 passengers on the boat is with Marla's group.  That is a pretty incredible statistic.

There have been a couple times when Marla's group has approached 200 people on a dance cruise, but that meant our group was only 1/16th of the grand total.  There’s a big difference between 1/6th and 1/16th.

I remember when Marla booked this trip.  Marla said she was going way out on a limb here.  She expected 8 to 10 people at most.  32 is way beyond her wildest expectation.  I can't help but stand in awe of what Marla has done.”

I am writing, Judy, because you deserve so much credit the success of this trip as well.   Every time a new registration rolls in, Marla and I sit in slack-jawed amazement at your powers of persuasion!  Hypnosis?  Drugs?  Blackmail?  Please tell me your secret!

So of course I asked Judy Klevorn about you.  I had to!  Judy laughed and said you are a very powerful lady indeed.  She showed me your picture on her phone, then spoke in glowing terms of a fairly recent high school graduation party you threw for all your friends.  Her husband Jim nodded in agreement.  Jim said it was the best party he had been to in ages.

Naturally Marla and I look forward to meeting you and thanking you in person.  I also look forward to meeting your California Band of Brothers and Sisters.  By the way, did you know Marla is from California?   Somewhere in Orange County south of L.A. 

I understand that you Northern California types consider Southern California to be a different country, but Marla is so great I have to believe some of the positive sides of the state have rubbed off on her.  Marla will be so relieved to be back in the company of civilized, non-texas people!

Switching to a more serious tone, I want you to know that both Marla and I understand full well the concept of ‘gratitude’.  You have done for us an unbelievable service by promoting this trip.  It is a real honor to know you have so much confidence in a couple of strangers like us… so now we both wish to make sure your trip is perfect 

If there is any way we can return the kindness that you have shown us, just say the word.  As for me, I am ready to grant you any favor that is within my realistic power to deliver. 

For example, I understand there is some friendly cloak and dagger involving at least one of your couples.  If you wish to pull a surprise of some sort on Judy K, just tell me what to do and I will help you set it up. 

Sincerely, Rick Archer


One realizes of course that September 20th, the date of my letter, wasn't that long ago.  Jim McCue would die six months later to the day.  I cannot get that thought out of my head.  To see how excited Jim and Judy were about this dream trip and to know about all the friends who loved them enough to sign up for a trip in part so they could celebrate their friendship... well, it hurts me to think about it.


From: Judy K
Sent: Friday,
October 11, 2013 11:28 AM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: SSQQ Travel Newsletter - Back from Hawaii and October Dance Classes

Rick, Guess what?

Total of my friends on the Rhone cruise is now up to nine, thanks to my friend Judy E.  Tom & Meredith from Cincinnati, Wow!  I have known them since grade school!

Rick's Reply:

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 12:55 PM
To: Judy K
Subject: Rhone Cruise VIP

Hi Judy!

Marla and I are well aware of the extent of your contribution to this trip's success, but I was unable to thank you properly because I was sworn to secrecy by your friend Judy Everett. You have surely noticed all the anonymous name postings on the passenger page. That was at Judy E's request.

Obviously you found out somehow. Now you are getting me in trouble!

This was supposed to be a HUGE SECRET. They were all going to surprise you at some point.

I hope your friend Judy doesn't think I am the source of the leak.

Out of curiosity, just how did you find out?? I bet it is a great story.

From: Judy K
Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2013 6:08 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Rhone Cruise

Rick, Its very simple. Telephones and emails.

You shouldn't be in hot water. Judy E copies everyone in her emails!!! If it was a secret she should have blind-carbon copied everyone LOL!

Judy E has been making all the arrangement for our flights, three day adventure in Aix, before the trip, & our hotels and three days after in Paris. Meredith called me & asked if it was Judy E. who persuaded Jim & I to go, and asked a lot of other questions as they are not world travelers like Judy E & I .

Another Very LOONG story.

We finally persuaded Tom & Meredith to stay on for Paris, at first he didn't want to be away from work that long.

BTW. She was also working on another couple from Michigan, but he couldn't away from work that long. She told him to have his wife come!  Judy E is relentless.

See you Sunday


From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday,
November 07, 2013 12:34 PM
To: judy k
Subject: sophisticated slow dance

Hi Judy,

I wanted to offer you and Jim a free dance class to thank you for all you did to make the France trip so successful.

If you guys feel like taking the Slow Dance class again (it starts tonight), feel free to drop by. It would be fun to see you.

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday, November 07, 2013 4:30 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: sophisticated slow dance

Jim and I are thankful for the gift. We would love to come, but we can't make it tonight. I just got home and Jim is working on big presentation for tomorrow AM

See you the 14 and 17. The 28th is Thanksgiving day; are you having any classes in December?

(Rick's Note:  I saw Jim and Judy about every other Thursday for Slow Dancing throughout November and December.  One night I asked the class if they wanted to stay late and practice dancing for one more song.  I remember a look of anguish that crossed Jim's face.  He clearly didn't want to dance any more.  I didn't take it personally; I assumed he was tired.)


From: Judy K
Sent: Wednesday,
January 08, 2014 1:40 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: SSQQ Travel Newsletter - January Dance Classes

We are going to try the Four in One class. See you Thursday

Rick's Reply:


From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 10:42 AM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: SSQQ Travel Newsletter - January Dance Classes

Oh, now what would that be in French?

And by the way, Jim & I vote for a China river cruise trip

Rick's Reply:


I will let Marla know of your interest in China. Hmm. Me too!!

(Rick's Note:  As of January 9, Judy K was talking about the future.  How could any of us have known??)



Rick's Note:  The email trail that helps me keep track went cold at this point.  So I need to rely on my memory which is so-so at best.  I know I had a serious conversation with Judy in late January or early February.  I don't remember if it was in dance class or on the phone.  I am guessing it was a phone call because I can't imagine how Judy would talk candidly if Jim was around. 

Judy phoned me to say they would have to miss dance class for a while.  Jim had experienced recent heart issues and was forced to go have it checked.  The doctor decided he need to have a stent placed in his heart artery.

I wondered how Jim was doing.  That's when I got my answer.

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday,
February 06, 2014 4:13 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: tonight lesson

We are planning on coming tonight, but we will have to see how much Jim can do. When we went to Gary's west coast, he could practice the steps but when it came to dancing to the music and changing partners he sat it out. we'll just have to see how much activity he can do.

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, February 06, 2014 4:36 PM
To: 'jk'
Subject: RE: tonight lesson

Wow! Jim is quite the trooper, isn't he?

Bring him over; he can rest all he wants. That's amazing!


I was thrilled to see the two of them show up for my Thursday dance class.  To my shock, Jim was walking, talking, and smiling.  I couldn't believe how healthy he looked.  Even more impressive, Jim was ready to dance!

Normally I have people rotate partners during class, but I isolated Jim and Judy in the corner so that he could sit down if he needed to.  I recall Jim making it through the entire class without an issue.

My friend Gary Richardson said Jim had done the same thing earlier in his Monday class.  Jim had told Gary he just came to watch and learn, but Jim couldn't bear sitting there.  Jim got up and danced for 45 minutes.  At that point he was pooped out, but completely happy.  Jim had a big grin on his face.   Gary told me he just stared at Jim in admiration. 

To both Gary and I, Jim seemed the picture of health.  Sure, he got tired, but don't we all?   To my eyes, Jim seemed well on his way to recovery.  Gary and I were both super happy for Jim and for Judy.  I believe this took place in mid-February 2014.

After class, I remember speaking with Judy K. I asked her how this stent would affect the River Cruise. Judy whispered that Jim was not out of the woods.  He had to have open heart surgery at some point. She said Jim had an appointment on Monday about further surgery.   Jim, she said, wanted to postpone the surgery till after the River cruise to France.

I am embarrassed to say this, but my first impression was that the heart problem could not be serious.  After all, if a heart problem is serious, you don't get to choose the date of your surgery. 

Still, I wanted to know.  So I sent this email:

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, February 10, 2014 3:55 PM
To: Judy K
Subject: RE: tonight lesson

So what did the doctor say? Before the trip or after the trip??

I didn't get an answer which left me worried. 

After their appearance in dance class, Judy and Jim disappeared for a couple weeks. However, it turned out they had been traveling.

At the end of February I got an email from Judy K.  Judy was replying to Gary, but included me in her answer.

From: Gary Richardson
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 10:16 AM
To: Judy Klevorn
Subject: How is Jim doing?

Missed you Tuesday. Hope you can join us again soon.

From: judy k
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 12:04 PM
To: Gary and Rick
Subject: Re: How is Jim doing?

I am surviving Michigan right now, Jim won't go to anything without me. It got up to 11 today; was down to 2 last night with a wind chill factor of -15. the weather girl there has been over 100 days below freezing. I don't know how they can put up with it!

I fly back to Houston tomorrow.

Jim has doctors appointments Monday and Tuesday with the thoracic surgeon. Open heart surgery will be either Wednesday or Thursday down at St Luke's.

He wants to postpone it until after the trip to France in April, but we will let the doctor make the call.

Rick's Reply:

Tough call on the 'timing'. If the surgery is done 'NOW', what are Jim's chances of recuperating by the time of the trip?

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday, February 27, 2014 12:40 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Fwd: RE: How is Jim doing?

We will have to see what doc says.

He's bound & determined to go.

Told him we might have to see about a wheel chair which went over like a lead balloon

From: Judy K
Sent: Wednesday,
March 05, 2014 12:05 PM
To: Rick
Cc: Subject: Jim

Jim will have open heart surgery Monday March 10, 2014. We have to be there at 5:30am.

He should be in the hospital at least a week.

Keep him in your prayers.

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2014 10:28 AM
To: Judy K
Subject: RE: Jim

I will certainly keep Jim in my thoughts. What are his chances of recovering in time for the trip to France??

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2014 3:21 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Jim

Jim still thinks he can do it.

Doc said lifting suitcases is definite no-no, but my friend Judy E said there will be three other men in our group to help.  Doc said that Jim being a diabetic, the sternum may take longer to heal, so 4 weeks is pushing it.

Rick's Reply:

Count me in - carry stuff, push a wheelchair, lend an arm… you name it.  Whatever it takes.

Rick's Note: I still did not completely grasp the seriousness of whatever procedure was being scheduled.  All I knew is that Jim had been dancing again within days of the Stent placement and was ready to postpone the surgery until after the River Cruise.  However, the fact that they decided to go ahead with the surgery before the trip did not sound good. I began to worry.

In retrospect, I feel so foolish.  The thing that I wanted the most was for Jim to go on that river cruise trip.  Every time Jim came to dance class, we would chat about that cruise during a break in the action.  Jim talked about putting his feet up on the railing and sipping a glass of wine as he watched the French vineyards pass by from his riverboat perch.  I told him I would like to join him for that.  And then we would both smile.

What I should have been thinking about was his health, but Jim never once said a word about his heart problems.

From: Judy K's son Matt wrote this letter
Sent: Saturday, March 15, 2014 9:38 AM
Subject: FW: Update On Jim

As of this AM Jim was doing better. Blood pressure and hemoglobin are up and maintaining. So they are taking able to reduce some of the medications. This includes the amount of sedatives most responsive to date. All good signs so the doctors are making plans to get him off the ECMO by Monday.

But his heart is not strong enough to work on it's own. So he being evaluated for either an external pump, he would then have an internal pump/artificial heart or transplant. This involves a lot of screenings of Jim's health and support network (i.e. Mom). So far they have cleared the first couple including the Social Work - Transplant screening.

He will continue to recover through the weekend. Then on Monday morning he will likely go info for an External Heart pump.

Mom is also working with a team of nurses and social workers to help with everything from health insurance filings and disability to just keeping bank accounts managed and letting the dogs out.

She was staying at a hotel close to the hospital for the first couple nights. Neighbors, friends and their pastor have been helping out, but the dogs, house and bills need tending to. She is back at home and doing the 1-3 hour commute each way. I swear, Houston traffic is worse than Chicago. Mom will go be back in the hotel Sunday night so she can be there for the surgery first thing Monday AM.

For now, he needs to keep getting stronger in prep for Monday,

Both of them needs your thoughts, prayers and support.

Please feel free to let others know. I know she would really appreciate texts and email of love, prayers and encouragement. Just please know, mom is under a lot of stress right now so please keep the phone calls to an absolute minimum.

She can talk your ear off later!!!!

Love and hugs to you all, Matt


Rick's Note:  I was left in the dark after Matt's email.  Based on Matt's email, it seems like Jim had just had his surgery (forgive me if I am wrong).  And it seems like they were getting ready to do a second surgery  [Matt: For now, he needs to keep getting stronger in prep for Monday...]

This is what happened next.


Sometime around 10:30 pm, Wednesday, March 19, Judy called Marla on Marla's business line and left a message .  Judy relayed some very depressing news.  The first thing Judy said was that she would have to cancel the cruise.

I remember Judy's exact words, "I know it will break Jim's heart to cancel that cruise..."

The irony in that statement is impossible to miss.  I am still haunted by those words. 

Judy went on to say the surgery was a fiasco.  Jim had basically died on the operating table only to be revived.  He had then been placed in a medical coma.  The horrible details Judy listed about everything that had gone wrong in the surgery detailed a medical scenario pretty close to the worst nightmare possible. 

As I listened to the pain in her voice, I started to cry.  It didn't sound like Jim had much of a chance.

We all hope for the best, but we know that sometimes things go terribly wrong. 

Judy's phone call came in around 10:30 pm March 19 and Jim died on March 19. Therefore I have to assume Jim died shortly after Judy's phone call.   


The very next morning I turned on my computer at 7:30 am.  This email froze me on the spot.

From: Gary Richardson
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 7:18 AM
Subject: Jim McCue passed away yesterday afternoon (03/19/2014)

I received a message this morning from Judy Klevorn that Jim passed away. Jim had heart troubles. He and Judy have been in my dance class for many recent months...great guy. For those of you who knew him, I know all of us will miss him.

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 7:53 AM
To: Judy K
Subject: I am so sorry!

Judy, just got the news from Gary Richardson. Marla and I are both very upset.

If there is anything we can do to help you through this tragedy, just say the word.

From: Judy K
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 2:10 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: I am so sorry!

Thank you. The girls had a list of people to call and you were on the list. They are out having lunch and admitted they haven't started on it. Everything is so hard. My Body is still reeling and my mind can't accept that he isn't here and won't be; that all our plans and dreams for the future are just gone.

I am in the beginning phase of having a memorial next Sat about 11:00 am. Details in the works. I'll ask you send to our dance community friends.

After that and when everyone is gone is when I'll probably need some time with friends to keep me occupied.


Rick's Note: 

In my opinion, Jim's sudden passing was a tragedy.  I am not a doctor nor do I know any facts regarding Jim's medical condition.  I simply have a gut feeling that Jim didn't catch a single break.  Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong.

I know the doctors at Saint Luke's are the finest heart doctors in the world.  And I also know that Jim had everything to live for - a loving wife, great kids, great job, great friends and a dream vacation awaiting him that he keenly anticipated.

Therefore it is hard for me to accept that the doctors could not save this man.  If it was a medical emergency where the paramedics brought the man in on life support, that one's thing.  But to have Jim McCue walk into the hospital under his own power for a scheduled surgery and see everything under the sun go wrong is very upsetting to me.

I heard from a source that my instincts were correct - something did go terribly wrong. 

Jim had heart surgery back in 1998.  There was apparently some scar tissue, whatever, but the area of the previous work needed a "patch".  So they took a vein from his leg and used it to repair the area from 1998.  Only one problem - the vein they took was no good.  It was damaged in some way and completely blocked.

In other words, it was the repair job that created the fatality.  By the time they realized what the problem was, the blocked vein did so much damage that now Jim needed a completely new heart.

Should Jim have gone on the river cruise?  Well, this is a question I am not qualified to answer.  I do wonder why they didn't test that vein ahead of time.

All I know is that a good man is dead long before his time. 



The one thing my friend Gary Richardson said over and over was what a nice guy Jim was.  Always friendly, always smiling, always a joy to be around.  I completely agree with Gary's opinion.  Jim was a very warm, affable person, easy to like.  

I would like to add that Jim had a toughness about him.  I saw Jim tired on several occasions, but through will power he made sure he participated nevertheless.  I respect Jim for that. 

Jim was 62 years old when he passed.  That is far too young. 

There is no rhyme or reason to Jim's death.  I can't sit here and think of a single "silver lining" to offer.  My strongest memory of Jim was that there was an incredible amount of life left in him and far too many unfulfilled dreams.   

Therefore I am not only filled with sadness, but a great deal of regret too at my missed chance.  I wanted to spend time with Jim on that river cruise.  I wanted to get to know Jim better and meet the nine people who were coming to celebrate their friendship. 

It really hurts me that Jim and Judy did so much to make this river cruise trip a success only to see their own dreams be so horribly shattered.  Nine people.  Think about it.  NINE PEOPLE were taking time out of their busy lives and flying 5,000 miles to France specifically because they wanted to share this experience with Jim and Judy. 

And now it's all up in smoke.  I'm sorry, but the unfairness of it all is so difficult for me to accept.

Another thing that was unfair was the cruelty of the circumstances surrounding his death.  Some people die a death I can accept, but that is certainly not the case in Jim's passing.

Approximately one year ago, another friend of mine, Bill McDougal, died of a sudden heart attack.  Although Bill lingered for a couple days, he never regained consciousness.  Believe it or not, Bill died on the dance floor.  He had a heart attack right in the middle of dancing a Polka with his wife, the modern day equivalent of dying with his boots on. 

Bill had the kind of death that I can actually smile at. 

What we all hope for is a long life to the point where we are too tired and too achy breaky to do much more than turn the TV on with the remote, then one night die in our sleep.  But we don't get to choose, do we? 

Jim McCue was a noble man, but his death was exactly the kind of death none of us want.  Jim died the kind of death we all fear.  Jim wanted to live.  He was full of ambition and dreams.  Jim was prepared to have fun with his wife and take visits to Michigan, visits to California, a River Cruise in France, maybe a river cruise in China the following year, watch his children enjoy their lives and so on. 

Jim did everything in his power to take steps to prolong his life, but his life was still taken away from him.  

Furthermore Jim died what I call a "D-Day Death", the hardest death of all to face.  A D-Day death is the gut-wrenching fear in the boat on the long trip to Omaha Beach that this could be it... and sure enough this is it.  The fear of a life threatening surgery is one of the hardest fears of all to deal with. It preys on one's mind, consumes one with anxiety every waking moment of the day.  None of us want to go through this. 

I know that Jim had to be a very brave man to face the very real possibility that this terrible fate awaited him. 

The message here is to remember it could all be gone tomorrow for each of us.  At our age - Jim was 62, I am 64 - we all need to grab our dreams NOW before it is too late. 

Those days of delayed gratification are over.  If there's something I want to do and I can afford it, I should do it.  There are no pockets in shrouds.  Can't stick the money in a pyramid. 

Well, Jim, one day soon enough I promise to sit in a chair on the Rhone River and order two glasses of wine.  Then I am going to put my feet up on the railing and say a toast to you and salute you wherever you are.  And then I am going to throw that second glass of wine into the river in your memory.  I will have Marla take a picture to commemorate the moment. 

It is a simple gesture, of course, but it has meaning for me.  I am going to keep you in my thoughts throughout the trip. 

My greatest regret is that your wonderful wife Judy will not be there.  Not that she would be in the mood to go, but I still wish I could have her with us and I known her nine friends all feel the same way.

No one is ever happy when a good man dies young.

However, I can at least say this - Jim McCue had the finest reputation of any man I know.  He was a kind, decent man who was loved by his wife Judy and his children very much.  Jim was a hard-working businessman who was successful in his career.

In the opinion of everyone in my own circle, Jim was what we call a "well-respected man".  Every single person who knew Jim has said the same thing - Jim was a really nice guy.

Therefore I believe I have the right to say that Jim died with many people who loved him and respected him.

I can also add that I believe Jim McCue lived a good life.  In this sense, Jim has every right to rest in peace.

Jim was a good man, a high compliment indeed.


I cannot begin to tell you the sadness I feel for this lady.  Judy is left behind to pick up the pieces of a life shattered by Jim's untimely death.

I understand that death is a part of life, but this was an unusually cruel kind of passing.

I have women in my life who are widows.  I have men in my life who are widowers.  I can testify that all of them are haunted by the memory of the one they lost.  Judging by what these people tell me, it takes a long time to get over the passing of a loved one.

To me, the only way to get through it is to have company... good company; people who care.  That again explains why I believe it is important to keep building a network of friendship and community through dance. 

As Jim's untimely death shows, this aging stuff can be absolutely brutal.  So I say let's band together and find strength in each other.

Judy said it herself in an email to me: "After that and when everyone is gone is when I'll probably need some time with friends to keep me occupied.

Judy is welcome in my life whenever she's ready.  I know you all feel the exact same way.

Rick Archer
March 2014

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