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Farewell to ‘Jungle’

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Fond memories will linger

By Lee Kendall

It’s often been said that in a small town like Cynthiana, everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows something about everyone else.

Based on the numbers of people who attended Jim Letcher’s visitation on Monday night, he knew a bunch of people… and a bunch of people thought a lot of “Jungle,” yours truly included.

To state it mildly, those of us who knew Jim were shocked at his sudden passing late last week.

He was never one to seek the spotlight in anything he did, but he was invaluable in every cause he was involved in, whether it was with the Cynthiana Country Club, the Lion’s Club or the Helping Hands group at the Cynthiana Christian Church.

He was solid as a rock, extremely wise yet unpretentious, dependable, kind, an organizer and the glue that was necessary to bind everything together in whatever he was involved in.

I never heard him say a disparaging word about another person, and never heard another person say a disparaging word about him… not many of us can say that about ourselves.

In spite of all the good he did in his all-too-brief life, his greatest legacy will be the two sons that he has, Tim and Kevin. In their particular cases, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. I can’t imagine the shock and grief they must feel at this time, along with his lovely wife Judy, but I am sure they will endure these tough times and hope they will look back in the years to come with only fond memories of their dad.

Judy, Tim and Kevin are all equally as well thought of as their husband and father, as evidenced by the attendance of their friends and colleagues at Monday’s visitation. To me, they are just like Jim. They are grounded, they know right from wrong and they are conscientious in their day-to-day lives.

My earliest recollection of Jim was about 30 years ago when we both played on a church softball team together. We had a fairly diverse collection of players, ranging in age from 20 to probably 60. I would have been the 20 and Jim would have been early to mid 30s.

We did fairly well in a few church state tournaments and Jim was a big part of that. He wasn’t a great player, but was always dependable in tight situations and just a good solid player. I respected him as a youngster and that never changed.

I also remember his involvement in one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on a golf course. One Sunday afternoon several years ago, he and his regular group of golfers were playing the last hole at the Cynthiana Country Club.

Hole No. 18 is a short par five that involves a drive downhill, followed by a second shot that goes sharply uphill to an elevated green. His regular group varied from time to time but usually included Doug Hampton, Sonny Hatterick and Chris Harris. Harold Ray Hill and Steve Chasteen were also members of the regular group from time to time.

I don’t remember exactly who was in the group on the fateful day, but I know Jungle was involved, because he hit the shot that has become somewhat legendary.

I was also playing that day and was on an adjacent hole, when our group heard an unusual amount of whooping and hollering coming from the bottom of the hill on No. 18.

We immediately looked over and saw Jim, with club in hand, helplessly watching as his approach shot from 150 yards away trickled onto the cart path just short of the green, and began to roll back to its point of origin, and beyond.

As his ball picked up momentum and it became clear that there was a chance that his next shot was going to be longer than the one he just hit, at least two of his buddies began cheering the ball on down the hill.

Sure enough, the ball rolled and rolled, eventually rolling right past where they were standing, and came to rest further from the green than where he had just hit and he had to do it all over again.

That is definitely a fond memory I have of Jim. His friends were cheering his misfortune, but he understood it was all in fun and he enjoyed it as much as they did. They were all happy that others had witnessed the event as well.

They knew it was something memorable that would be talked about for years. Jim will be remembered and talked about for years, as well.