Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rest in Peace, Jim Reis

Four years ago, I wrote a post about the passing of Bob Clements, whom I had met while volunteering at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum and who had become a close friend of mine and an inspiration to how I explored my obsession with the Civil War, especially through collecting artifacts. Bob was a great guy and I still miss him, even after four years have somehow passed so quickly,

Today, I must write another sad post, about the passing of another inspiration and friend, Jim Reis, a long-time respected reporter, columnist and historian for the now-defunct Kentucky Post newspaper. In regards to Northern Kentucky history, Jim was a giant, absolutely one of the most influential and prolific historians of this region. Few people have contributed as much or more to local history than he did.

My relationship with Jim was a lot different than the one with Bob. I only met Jim about 5 or 6 years ago, when he had already retired and was starting to suffer from Parkinson's Disease. This awful disease had already started to affect him physically, as he was very skinny, had trouble walking or standing and even struggled to speak, but us mind was still sharp st the time, at least as far as I could tell as he asked questions at meetings. People had to strain to hear and understand him, but it was worth the effort. 

Of course, as the years passed, the diseases effects worsened , forcing hm to retire as Vice-President from the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society, where I also volunteer. He still attended membership meetings, where it was always nice to see him, though sometimes hard to see his condition.

Jim and I were friends and always said "hello" and shook hands when we met, but it was not as personal a relationship as I had with Nob. It was more professional, but was one of respect and friendship

His inspiration on my interest in the Civil War, however, started much earlier than my friendship with Bob. In 1983, one of his Pieces of the Past articles on local history was on the subject of a local incident from the Civil War, involving William Francis Corbin and Jefferson McGraw.

This article fascinated me. Some of it was because the newspaper included a picture of a cow standing Corbin's gravestone in the middle of a farm field. My mom told me this cow was my cousin's, as he was renting the land where he had been buried., Perhaps that tiny family connection caught my interest for some reason. McGraw was buried at a church that was just down the street from where I lived (out in the middle of the country), so that very local aspect of the story also attracted my attention

About 10 years later, when I was at college, I wanted to read that story again, and wen to the library and searched through many issues of the Post, until I found. Luckily, I guessed the year was 1983 and started there, so I did not need to search too long, even in those days before google and other Internet search engines.

I also purchased a booklet that the Historical Society sold, a reprint of an 1897 story that one of Corbin's friends had put together

When asked about how I became so interested in the Civil War, my first answer is usually that I, at some point in my elementary school years, learned that Abraham Lincoln was, like me, from Kentucky. This sparked my interest in Lincoln, which naturally led to a fascination about the war, but I do think the Corbin-McGraw story affected me and helped draw my interest to the war. It is probably the most relevant incident that involved anything very close to where I grew up (though the Siege of Cincinnati a few months prior did affect the entire region) so it always struck a chord with me. Had I not read Jim's story about them, would I have been as interested in history or the Civil War? I do not know, though I do know his story has remained with me even now, over 30 years later. It is part of My Civil War Obsession, and I will always remember that and thank Jim for writing about it, letting me know this fascination story. It will always be a part of me.

I will also always remember his funeral, which took place Thursday. The final song, as they moved his casket out of the church was Battle Hymn of the Republic. It is one of my favorite Civil War era songs, but I had never before thought about it as a funeral song. It somehow ended up being very fitting and appropriate, and added even more and more sincere feelings to this sad occasion, at least for me. That was memorable and just so fitting and proper.

Thank you Jim, and rest in peace my friend.

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