DES MOINES, Iowa — We first met Jim Duff six years ago. He was delivering food to local refugees, and we had trouble keeping up with him. These days Jim is still making deliveries, just at a little bit slower pace and with a little help.
Today, Vicky Ferin is driving. She’s known Jim for thirty years. They go to the same church and used to be neighbors.
“He always wanted to stay young,” Vicky says with a laugh, “so he had all the young people in the neighborhood come over to his house.”
There was always a lot of laughing, and there still is…especially on “donut day.” Jim’s been stopping at Donut Hut every week for eleven years. The owners know him well, and they know the special box has a special destination. It goes to Mercy Hospice, where his wife Janet died from Alzheimer’s eleven years ago. The nurses who took care of her say they’ll never forget what they saw.
“I witnessed pure love, pure love,” says head nurse Paula Williams. “He had cared for her at home, himself. When he brought her here it was a very tough decision for him, and he was with her day and night until she passed.”
Vicky remembers the toll Janet’s disease took on Jim. “It was heartbreaking for him going through everything with Janet. He loved her dearly.”
Jim loves reminiscing about their life together. “She was a pretty little thing,” he says with a chuckle. “It was just one of those things where we just fell into it, ya know.” He talks about his children and what a good mother Janet was and how she loved to dance. “Gosh, you’re bringing memories up,” he nods, “good memories…yup, it was a good time.”
Recently, some of those memories have started fading. Jim’s family and friends started noticing a difference in Jim last summer.
“We could see that he was becoming more frail, walking slower, perhaps,” says Paula, “but it never affected his smile or enthusiasm.”
The change is hard for Vicky. “Just coming to the reality that this is a stage in his life that we never expected out of the vibrance of this man,” she says.
Dates and details may be tough to remember, but Jim never forgets what’s most important. “I do it because it makes people happy,” he says. “I like to see a smile on their face.”
It’s a simple motto, but a good one to remember.
“I think if we just model after him the world would be a better place,” says Vicky. “People need people, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about love.”