The Strong Woman
“Heaven Just Got Funnier Tonight”
By Claire Cooper Black
Early this morning (Wednesday) I found out that our father’s best friend passed away. He was 95 years funny!
James Lee Erwin was my father’s best friend since they met at Baylor University when they were both in their twenties. A favorite story of Jim’s is that our father walked right up to Jim, stuck out his hand and said “Hi, I’m R. L. Cooper”, like Jim should be impressed by that. The two became and remained best friends for life from that day forward. Our father passed away in 2008 and Jim, I could tell, was heartbroken.
These two men graduated from Baylor University and then both went to work for Remington Rand in Dallas. Our families got transferred to Los Angeles, California together and then to Darien, Connecticut together. So, Jim and Sarah Erwin were our second set of parents when my brother and I were at their house. Whatever Jim or Sarah said, it was to be obeyed.
Both my father and Jim worked for Remington Rand/Sperry Remington for decades. Jim in Dallas and my father in Houston. But what I loved most about their friendship was their laughter. These two guys could bring a whole room to tears with their stories of their times at Baylor and with Remington Rand.
When our families were being transferred to Connecticut, the “guys” were supposed to do some house hunting while our mother and Sarah packed up the houses and the kids getting ready to move across the country. It turns out that the “guys” decided instead to partake of the outstanding and varied sporting events in the Big Apple! If someone was playing anything, they were there after work.
Living in Connecticut and working in New York City required a train ride every day. When the “guys” wanted to sneak out of work early, they had this little trick. They would leave their overcoats in the coat room so people would think they were still in the building working late. And since the coats were there the next morning, of course it was assumed that they arrived early for work.
In actuality, they were at a sporting event that evening and arriving late for work the next morning.
Jim and Coop did break away from the sports long enough to come back to California and drive all of us across the country. If you knew these two guys, it was a bit iffy if they would come get us.
We took 2 weeks and visited all the historical sites we could along the way. Sort of like a traveling history trip. I remember a lot of this trip even though I was only 8 or 9 years old. We had a fabulous time. Four parents, six kids and two dogs in two cars.
While Connecticut is beautiful, it ain’t Texas! So, Jim and Dad kept working to get back to Texas as fast as they could. I don’t know if someone found out about the coat thing or not, but we only did a two-year sentence in Connecticut before we were transferred back to Texas.
The shenanigans and practical jokes between these two friends went on for over 70 years. Sometimes they ganged up on others and every now and then kids were recruited to assist. Hey, you have to learn somewhere.
So as Jim is arriving at the Pearly Gates tonight, in my heart I’m wondering what my father has in store for him. Heaven just got funnier tonight.