June 9, 2004

Jim Leeper Would Have Been 52 Today

Patti & Jim Leeper in 1977My old friend Jim Leeper would have been 52 today. Sadly, we lost Jim in 1998 when he left his family and friends much too soon. I took this picture in 1977 of Jim and Patti Johnson, who eventually became Patti Leeper, his great wife and the mother of his two sons.

I had met Jim while I was in my last semester at SDSU in 1972, when a guy I had known at Saints named Frank Kloberdanz talked me into joining a pyramid marketing system called Sta-Power Industries. Frank and Jim both were General Distributors in that business, and I eventually became one too. The company sold automotive conditioners, similar to STP, which was the giant rival we were pledged to defeat. I ended up having cases of that stuff in my garage for years afterwards!

Leep and I had many zany adventures together while trying to recruit people for Sta-Power. Then, after I had been there about 11 months, Jim jumped to Action Industries, a new company that was spinning off from Sta-Power, and he recruited me into jumping with him! I stayed with Action only a few more months, though, before finally concluding I really wasn't cut out for sales. I meanwhile had graduated from SDSU with a degree in journalism, so I got a job as a reporter/photographer for a weekly paper.

Jim was a great salesman, on the other hand, because the guy just oozed charm and charisma! He would sell many different things over the next two and a half decades. I think his first job after he left Action was selling memberships at a Jack LaLanne's gym.

One of my favorite memories of hanging out with Jim was the time in the mid-'70s when he convinced me to help him turn an old VW chasis into a rather haphazardly built dune buggy, which we then towed down to some dunes below Tijuana. There, while we were racing around with Jim at the wheel, the tow hitch we had folded up and tied in front of us came loose. The hitch plunged down in front of the buggy and dug into the ground, jarring us to an instant stop and spewing sand up and all over us. Luckily, we didn't crash, but we both looked silly as could be, with sand-in-our-teeth goofy grins and eyes that showed a combination of shock and relief!

Leep & Greeno in 1989What I will always remember Jim Leeper most for, though, is the nickname he gave me -- Greeno. He loved calling me that, and he used to tell me he was going to open a club someday and name it Greeno's!

I hadn't seen Jim since the night this picture was taken of us clowning around in 1989, at a pajama-themed party he and Patti hosted, but it broke my heart when I discovered his obituary in the newspaper on January 13, 1998. Even though I hadn't seen him in so many years, I always felt we were good friends who would share more adventures together someday. That can't happen now in this lifetime.

I miss you, Leep, and I'm thinking about you on your birthday. Hope things are going well where you are. -- Greeno

P.S. -- I've lost touch with Patti and Jim's family, so if anyone who knows them sees this, please tell them it's here!

Posted at 6:14 AM in Birthdays, DMG's Friends, In Memoriam