Ever since Jim Atwood was a kid, friends consistently noticed two endearing qualities: his great good humor and his passion for jazz and playing jazz piano.
Thanks to Jim’s brother, John Elliott, we have fresh evidence that those qualities endured to the end. John kindly sent a lovely remembrance of Jim by his lifelong friend from Blake School in Minneapolis, Larry Salzman. (He’s standing next to Jim in this 1967 photo.) Larry wrote of Jim’s “wacky sense of humor” and ability to produce “uncontrolled laughter.”
And he emphasized how Jim had taught him to raise his musical horizons beyond swing bands through discovering Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. “This was the music that Jim aspired to understand and ultimately perform on the piano.” Jazz, Salzman said, was the “glue that cemented our lifelong bond. Any chance we got during the 1950s, we would play together late into the night on the darkened sun porch of my house where we had an upright piano and I had my drums set up. My parents never complained.”
At Amherst, his fellow Blake classmates Lynn Truesdell and Peter Van Dusen remember how Jim put his wit to good use by coming to home hockey games and heckling players on the visiting team. Jim’s heckling was so uproarious that its nnerving effect on the opposition was as good as having an extra man on the Amherst team. Fraternity brothers at DKE also remember how easily Jim conjured up, when at the piano late at night with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, images of Hoagy Carmichael at a fancy jazz club. He was very good.
After college Jim returned to his native Minneapolis. Over the course of the years he worked for Donaldson’s, the Courier Dispatch Inc. and the Handicapped Transport System. He never married. Unfortunately, as time passed Jim became incapacitated by poor health, and he spent the final years of his life at Wilder Residence East in St. Paul. According to Salzman, these were years of some “pain and disappointment.”
James Foster Atwood died peacefully Oct. 20, 1998. Brother John said he would have felt honored to be included in our 50th Reunion festivities. Jim Atwood (1936-1998)
Jim and his nephew, John Christopher Elliott,
July 4, 1980, on their shared birth date; Jim was 44.
Jim at the piano in 1967 with friend Larry Salzman