Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feeling the pain of the loss of a longtime golf buddy

Much is said about first impressions, and we all know you have only one chance to make a good one.

But I have, at least in my mind, a pretty decent record of sizing up people the first time I meet them.

If the first impression is a good one, it portends a healthy — and lasting — relationship. If it’s not so good, well, I guess you can always give that person a second chance.

Jack Cahill didn’t need a second chance with me. The first time I ever met him, many years ago, I knew immediately that he was the real deal — a genuine person you would like to know, be around and even socialize with.

I got to know him very well over the years. I played golf with him several times, and on a long-ago Florida golfing trip we were even roommates.

If I were to venture that he never made an enemy, that would be undeniably accurate.

He had a winning smile, a pleasant demeanor and a way of making you like him.

The good doctor died a little over a week ago, and I have been giving a lot of thought to what I might say about him. Every syllable of it is good.

Dr. John J. Cahill described his occupation at Rotary meetings as “baby catcher.” I guess that would be accurate, because he delivered a lot of babies; and I have personal knowledge of one of them who turned out to be not only a wonderful person, but also a great mother in her own right who raised three terrific children any parent would be proud of.

But Jack did a lot more than deliver babies. He also made a name for himself in the development of hospital emergency rooms.

He was a charter member of the American College of Emergency Physicians and developed the training and certification of the first Emergency Medical System (EMS) in Lake County.

The firefighters he trained in EMS procedures were especially fond of him. And he was at one time the supervisor of all emergency room services for what was, at the time, the Lake County Memorial Hospital system.

He and his beautiful wife, Mary Ann, raised five fine children. The only one I knew well was Tim, one of the twins. He is a successful banker with First Merit, and I presume the others are also doing well.

I knew Jack best at our Rotary Club doings. He was president the year before I was, so I saw him often in those days in the middle 1970s.

Rotary doesn’t seem to pay much heed, if any, to golf these days.

But in those halcyon days, the Golf Committee was the most important function of the club. We had an outing once a month, with at least 16 or 20 members playing.

For the uninitiated, that is four or five foursomes. Jack was a director and later president of Acacia Country Club, so that was one of the lush venues we got to play.

Hey, we played at a lot of good places — Madison, Pine Ridge, Kirtland. The golfing was great, but the dinners and the fellowship afterwards even better — especially the cookouts and poker games at Mel Andrews’ barn in Mentor.

We have only one golf outing a year now. The only guys I can think of who are still around from those early days are Dr. Walt Sargent and Dr. Paul Ferris. And, of course, me.

There were about 16 of us who went on those unforgettable golfing trips to Naples, Fla. One of our great challenges was keeping one of our members away from the bottle, if you know what I mean.

What we learned was that while he was a very good golfer, he was totally unable to play while sober. So we just let him drink. (Don’t try to guess, you probably never knew him.)

It was on one of those trips that Jack Cahill and I were roommates. He was never much for staying out late, as some of the guys were.

Jack and I also had the pleasure of serving together on the board of Lake County Bluecoats Inc. In fact, he was on the board before I was. I think he was a charter member, since the organization here was founded by a group of local doctors.

Jack led a wonderful, productive and diverse life. His Roman Catholic faith was a large part of it. He had admirers everywhere he went. He did many more things than I have had space to chronicle here, including leadership roles he played with the Willoughby Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Lake County.

The masses of people who showed up at the funeral home to pay tribute to him and his family is a tribute that will not be forgotten.


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