Visitation for James E. Wirth, 87, of Inverness will be held Monday, November 20, 2023 from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the funeral mass at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 2515 Palatine Road, Inverness. Private inurnment will be held at St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery, Palatine. The funeral will be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person on holyfamilyparish.org.
James was born May 26,1936 and passed away November 7, 2023. James is the beloved husband of Mary Anne Wirth (nee Haering); loving father of Lynn (David) Daugerdas and Laurie (Michael) Wood; loving grandfather of Trevor Daugerdas, Amanda Wood and Colin Wood; dear son of the late Edward and Anna Mae (nee Donnelly) Wirth; and loving brother of Joyce (Ronald) Poister. He is fondly remembered by many friends, nieces, nephews, cousins and the outlaws (a humorously chosen name for spouses of Mary Anne’s siblings). Lovingly known as Poppi by his three grandchildren; Daddy Jim by his daughters; Jimmy by his wife and her brother, Chuck; and Jim by all others who were fortunate enough to encounter such a character.
Jim had a nurturing spirit, a keen mind and a loving heart. He was an overachieving, "grew-up- on-the-other-side-of-the-tracks", guy from Pittsburgh who accomplished much in life. But as he would say, “It’s no big deal. I kinda fell into it.” He always knew where he came from and was filled with wonder and gratefulness to be living the life he had created for himself.
Jim’s zest for life was contagious; his worldly advice, encouraging and simple. “This too shall pass” and “You can deal with this until tomorrow. That is why God made days only last 24 hours. Anyone can handle 24 hours.” When his five-year-old grandson wanted to know the meaning of life, he answered with one word: Love.
When Jim Wirth walked into the room, you knew he had arrived. His personality was bigger than life—he loved chatting with everyone he met and had a particularly fantastic cowboy-boots-wearing and pipe-smoking phase that lasted for much of the 70’s and 80’s. He was the consummate storyteller, often bringing his family to tears from laughing so hard. Jim voiced his opinion with no apologies. He never sugar coated his thoughts, to a fault at times, but you always knew where you stood with him. He had a heart of gold. He was a born leader.
Jim was his family’s biggest cheerleader, never missing a concert, play, or school/sporting/boy scout event. He never held back to show them how much he loved them and would drop everything—and go anywhere—if they needed him.
Some of Jim’s proudest days were when he became Poppi to Amanda, Colin and Trevor. When they were babies, he held them for hours on end as they slept because he figured it was better than laying in a crib. His seize-the-day attitude meant he often had trouble sleeping the night before a big occasion, life event or just a simple trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens with his family. Life was good when there was an adventure to look forward to.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jim was taught by nuns at St. Raphael Grade School, where he served as an altar boy and sang in the boys choir. He and his fellow altar boys loved to “play priest” with the unconsecrated communion wafers. One of his saddest days was when his voice changed and could no longer be in the boys choir, meaning no more attendance at their annual picnics. Oh how he loved a good picnic! He got into much mischief on the streets of his Morningside neighborhood, often pulling his beloved baby sister, Joyce, into his antics.
His next stop was Central Catholic High School then University of Pittsburgh to study Mechanical Engineering. When a professor challenged him to do so, he made the Dean’s List. After accomplishing that goal, he decided it didn’t need to be done again!
While at Pitt, he met Mary Anne Haering when he went to a bowling alley with a friend who wanted to get back together with Mary Anne after breaking up with her. Instead, Jim caught her eye. He courted and eventually proposed to her, marrying on September 17, 1960. Despite an initial rocky relationship with Mary Anne’s protective parents, he later won their hearts, as he could do with just about anyone.
After college graduation, Jim moved to Washington DC for work. Lunchtimes were spent visiting every Smithsonian museum, where he soaked in all the knowledge he could. He lived in a boarding house where he’d sop up the grease on his fried eggs with paper napkins because the landlady “drowned them in bacon grease” and “you never knew who would be sleeping in your bed when you arrived home at night” because of someone’s mistaken turn from the hallway.
At Reynolds Metals, Jim earned several patents for his engineering designs and attended University of Richmond at night, earning a Masters in Commerce. His next stop was DuPont, where he worked for nearly 30 years in chemical sales and marketing. A job transfer to Palatine which was supposed to only be for two to three years turned into a forever home.
Even before his official retirement from DuPont, Jim began pursuing his second act by attending IIT Law School at night. There he made dear friendships with two periodontists, Bob Paulson and the bigger-than-life Texan, Bob Brackett. He frequented a McDonalds close to campus, often sharing a table with homeless men who he always bought coffee for. After graduation and
passing the bar exam, he opened a law office at 25 E Washington Street in Chicago with Brackett and Paulson. Bob Brackett’s wife, Joy, used to run the office and said they did this so they had an excuse to hang out with each other every day.
Jim was a devout Catholic who never went anywhere without his rosary beads. He and Mary Anne were active in church life and it was through his faith journey that he developed deep and life-long friendships with Jack Rohr and Ed Diamond. Every Saturday morning for several decades, they met as a spiritual support group and solved the world’s problems over a hungry-man’s special at the Palatine Inn. A life-long learner, Jim took landscape architecture classes at Harper College and planted a special garden in his backyard for his first grandchild, who he lovingly called Amazing Amanda, complete with hard-to-grow roses (one of his favorite flowers) and a swinging bench where the two of them would sit together. He was a stained-glass apprentice to Will Hamm and created small and large scale stained glass pieces which he gifted to adorn his family and friends’ homes. He loved to take long walks, working out, and even took up Tai Chi later in life. He also loved to play, watch, study and talk about golf, which made Palatine Hills Golf Course the perfect place to work in his “retirement years.” With his beautiful baritone voice, he sang along while listening to Kenny Rogers, Cat Stevens and Johnny Cash, who were among his favorite artists. Jim was a fierce advocate for the underprivileged, physically and mentally challenged, and the homeless. He liked that his daughters attended Palatine High School because at that time it was the only high school in the area that had physically and mentally challenged students integrated into the classrooms. In his later years, he served on the board of the Bridge Youth and Family Services and volunteered at the PADS homeless shelter at St. Thomas of Villanova. With his law degree in hand, he helped out many family members and friends.
Joyce said she felt sorry for anyone who married his daughters because “the guy would have some big shoes to fill.” He embraced that Dave and Mike were up for the task. He made Mary Anne and all his family and friends feel as if they were his saving grace and life’s ultimate gift. He loved them fiercely and they knew it.
Jim has now achieved his most cherished accomplishment—being one with his Father in Heaven, a union which was delayed by 12 years after surviving a medical episode that has a 2% survival rate. He would say it was just luck that he survived. Until his life’s journey ended, he would lovingly refer to Mary Anne as “his bride” and tell her everyday that she was beautiful and he loved her sooo much. Even in his final days, whenever anyone visited him, Jim never failed to ask them to “drive carefully” as they departed.
Jim Wirth will be greatly missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to have shared his company and life’s journey. His stories and quick wit are legendary. He really did think to himself often, “What a Wonderful World!”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations appreciated to the Alzheimer’s Association.