Jim Skopek Family Emergency Assistance Fund

$36,792 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 324 people in 6 months
Created January 6, 2019
Fundraising Team
on behalf of Corinne Skopek
35976944_1546916510833426_r.jpeg35976944_1546915972631149_r.jpegMy heart breaks to report that our great friend, classmate, veteran, and patriot Jim Skopek of the West Point Class of '77, has fallen on extreme circumstances. In a matter of weeks, he has gone from an alert, vibrant, caring father to sometimes not knowing his own name or those who have been dear to him for decades. Those of us who know him recognize the strength of character behind the eyes, the acceptance of inevitability when his mind is hampered by aggressive cancer from completing simple tasks. In the space of weeks, he has been taken from enviable health to an expectation that he has only weeks to live. For we who love him, to see him this way is heartbreaking. I am grief-stricken. Jim is in hospice, and as I write this revision (1/24/19), he is bedridden. Only last week, he was on his feet. He took to his wheelchair four days ago. That lasted two days, and he cannot speak.

To make matters worse, he had just started a new job. His mental incapacity coincided with the time during which he should have applied for his new employer's health/medical insurance. Sadly, that transaction was not completed.

The focus of this  campaign is to raise funds to ease the family's suffering by helping to pay bills, such as funeral, legal advice, and other related expenses including travel by family members and those needed to help with his current care. All contributions go directly to a special account outside of Jim's estate and controlled by the family. (Note: I take care of my own travel expense.)

Our fear is for the financial calamity that could befall his daughters, now in their twenties and still at the beginning of their lives. All that Jim had worked to leave them is jeopardized by medical bills that would be charged to the estate. As much as possible, we would like to see Corinne and Krista emerge from this calamity financially whole, the way they would have been without the tragedy of Jim's illness.

Please donate what you can. Jim lived a noble life, a friend to all. His family and friends have circled around him to provide comfort during these days. The need for financial support is immediate.

If you  can get to Raleigh, North Carolina and visit him, please make the time while there is time. Seeing his eyes light up will be worth the trip.
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I've been remiss. I apologize.

A few days ago, a friend and classmate, Bob Huff, inquired about how Corinne and Krista Skopek were doing; and, he asked how I was doing. I appreciate his warmth and concern. Following was my reply:

"Hi Bob, thanks for asking, and great to hear from you. I went to see his family on the 3rd and 4th. His daughter got married that weekend, and she had called a couple of weeks earlier to ask me to come. She and her new husband were engaged just before Jim’s illness was detected.

"A little over a month ago, her fiancé told her that he didn’t want to wait and endure a year’s worth of wedding-planning stress on top of what they had already gone through. He asked to have an almost impromptu wedding set a few weeks out from then, and that occurred on May 4th. They did not send out invitations, just called people that they wanted to be there. I felt honored to be included. Jack and Barbara Powell were also there. A total of about 75 people.

"The wedding was beautiful. Corinne’s friends threw the wedding for her. One co-worker volunteered her house as the venue. The ceremony was held in an open field by a pond with a huge white canopy set up for the reception. The friends set up the canopy, brought in the tables and chairs, and two of them even shared officiating duties. Her uncle, Jim's brother, walked her down the aisle. I am so happy for Corinne and the groom, and her sister too. The event brought happiness back into their lives.

"I’m OK too. We had a great Mothers Day yesterday with our daughters and their kids here for much of the day."

The wedding was fitting. Corinne made for a beautiful bride, and Jonathan was a handsome groom. Together, they make a sweet couple. Wondrously, a butterfly flew in and landed on a chair that had been reserved and left open for Jim. It stayed there for the entire ceremony.

Just as curious, as the reception wound down, a heavy wind blew in and whirled around inside the canopy, blowing over chairs, lifting table-cloths, and even knocking a tray of food to the floor -- I took a few steps backward to keep my balance. It was as if Jim made his presence known and looked down chuckling at the mayhem he caused.

Being part of the celebration and seeing Jonathan and Corrine finally married, and being able to visit with Krista, Phil and his wife Ruth, and Jack and Barbara Powell were terrific. Jim will always be in our hearts, and the event signaled a continuation of living life to its fullest.

I've left the fund open because the estate has not yet cleared probate. Phil has taken over the administration of that action. We believe that medical bills have been knocked down to the extent that Corinne and Krista will emerge from it in roughly the same financial position they would have without the tragedy. That would not have been possible but for your generosity--that of family, friends, and strangers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Please join me now in congratulating Jonathan and Corinne, and wishing them a long and happy life together.
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We gathered under Jim’s favorite tree six days after he left us. This was where Corinne and Krista felt free to reveal their raw agony at their father’s departure. This was where, each Monday evening, after dinner together, the three would gather to talk and enjoy each other’s company. Those Monday rendezvous were sacred to them. Regardless of other goings-on, only an extreme circumstance could take priority.

The memorial service was simple. A few family members, neighbors and close friends circled about a table with favorite pictures of Jim’s daughters with their father. Next to the photos, a small container held some of Jim’s ashes—the remainder to be distributed in other of Jim’s favorite places. His favored red sweatshirt draped over a chair next to the table.

Corinne spoke passionately, brokenly of a father she and Krista adored; of his dedication to making his home a safe and protected place for them. She said, “Our Dad is the kindest, most hard-working, humble, and morally responsible person I know. He was not a man of many words… My Dad’s strength was sacrificial and generous. Our dad is our greatest soldier. He defended what he holds dear, starting with his devotion to his country, always guarding his moral ideals, and most profoundly, our hearts. He has been our rock and shelter, and never had a bad word to say to anyone. He is the reason we are whole. He was nothing if not steady and solid.”

Jim was my friend, he was my brother. I miss him. He left me with a new extended family that I love very much. We’ve cried together a lot over the past 2 months, but we’ve laughed a lot, talked a lot, and gotten to know each other in ways not otherwise possible.

When we were young, we celebrated a lot of firsts: first birthdays, first steps, first word, first day of school, etc. At this end of life, we see a lot of lasts: last day on the job before retiring; last meal in a place…and so on.

As I listened to Corinne, I looked past the house to the road below. It was down that road that I had the privilege of being with Jim when he took his last walk. I cherish the memory. Jim’s sister, Lauri, was there with her husband Tom, and Ruth, Phil’s wife—and Chelsea, Jim’s beloved dog. Jim and Chelsea had been inseparable in Jim’s last days.

We didn’t know that would be Jim’s last walk. We realized that after the fact.

After Corinne had finished speaking, Phil spoke about growing up with Jim, and what a wonderful brother Jim had been. Jim had taught Phil how to ride a bicycle and keep it in good repair. He had taken his younger brother hiking and camping. Phil spoke of a close-knit family, and of his proudest moment in seeing his older brother graduate. Jim had been Phil’s inspiration to apply for and accept appointment to the US Naval Academy.

When Phil ended his comments, Jack Powell requested that the small group join hands, and he led in prayer, asking God to receive Jim and provide comfort to those grieving his departure. After he had finished, Corinne and Krista spread Jim’s ashes over the ground under the tall oak tree—a fitting tribute to a life well-lived and the home and the family Jim loved.

Corinne closed her remarks with expressions of gratitude to all those who buttressed them and Jim with prayers, donations, meals, messages, phone calls, and volunteer service in caring for him. “I’m very grateful for the amount of support we’ve received in the past months. It’s a testament to my dad. The fact that he was able to see his own legacy is a chance that not many people get. He was with us to the very end, understanding every word and every act of kindness and support. To say he will be missed is an understatement.”

The daughters are working Jim’s estate through probate now. Thanks to you, the road ahead will be much easier than that contemplated when this tragedy first struck. No decisions have yet been made about other memorial services.

If you have not yet donated, please consider doing so, and/or help spread the word. We’ve come a long way in financial support of Jim, Corinne and Krista, with some distance still to cover: gofundme.com/jim-skopek-family-emergency-assistance-fund
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I returned home to Texas last night after twelve days in North Carolina to be with my friend and classmate, Jim Skopek, make his final departure. He left with grace and dignity. My heart is torn.
When I had left him nearly two weeks earlier, he was still mobile, although he had to use a walker. A day later, he was confined to a wheelchair, and two days later he was confined to bed. Things went downhill rapidly from there. On January 31, Jim entered Transitions Lifecare, a professional hospice facility.
The two prior days had been brutal for Jim. He could not keep food or drink down, and his family did everything they knew how to keep him comfortable. On that Wednesday night, Jim’s daughter Corinne called to let me know that the hospice nurse had been in and had advised that Jim had only a few days remaining and should be admitted to the hospice facility.
I moved my travel plans up a day. By the time I arrived, he had already been transferred.
Jim never regained consciousness, except in the final moments of his life. Only his sister-in-law, Ruth was with him then. Shortly past 8 a.m. Ruth stood by his bed talking to him and caressing his face. She had done that hour after hour since Jim had entered hospice. She and Phil had lived in Jim’s room with him since he had entered the facility. From that time until he passed, Jim was never left alone, and no one was more faithful than Ruth in attending to him.
The day before, Phil had bathed Jim’s dog, Chelsea, and had taken her to the veterinarian to update her rabies shot. She spent that day with Jim in his room with Corinne and her sister, Krista, Phil, Ruth, and me.
The next morning, on Wednesday, February 6, Phil took Chelsea for a walk, leaving Ruth alone in the room with Jim. As she spoke to Jim, he suddenly opened his eyes. Ruth says they were as deep blue as she had ever seen them, and for a moment, the full-of-life, vibrant Jim seemed to return. Then he closed them, and he was gone.
I had received a text message from Phil advising that, while Jim had lived through another night, surviving another day was doubtful. Phil advised hurrying to the hospice center. I saw and responded to the note nine minutes later. In that interim, Jim had left us.
I cannot describe the sense of loss and guilt upon arriving at Jim’s room and finding that he had already passed on. A nurse working outside his door when I arrived let me know that he had gone. Phil met me just inside the door. Corinne and Krista had already arrived. Our shared emotion that followed can only be imagined, not explained.
I kissed Jim on his forehead. He was still warm. He looked peaceful, his strong jaw still jutting. The picture in my mind was Jim riding next to me as we set out for the West Coast on our motorcycles when we were very young. That is the image that I will hold to.
The hospice staff served above and beyond what could have been expected. They left us there to console each other and spend our last hours with Jim, checking in with us to see what we might need. A man from the crematorium that Corinne and Krista had selected arrived and waited patiently outside the door until we were ready. Then we waited in the hall while he entered the room to prepare the body to be transferred.
All dignity and respect were shown to Jim as he made his exit. An American flag was draped over his body on the gurney, and we walked next to him in procession. The hospice staff lined the corridors to pay their respects as we passed. We reached the door leading outside, and the man from the crematorium proceeded alone with Jim and the flag-draped gurney. Then, Jim was gone.
Because of you, this ordeal was far easier to bear than it would have been. Because of your kind donations, Corinne and Krista were able to take time away from their jobs to be with their father in his final hours and in the days immediately following. Because of your generosity, they could handle the legal and emotional hurdles that faced them, including the challenge of meeting mortgage payments while their childhood home advanced through probate. Because you cared, the staggering medical costs that lay claim to Jim’s estate are manageable.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I’ll take the liberty of expressing the same gratitude on behalf of Corinne, Krista, and the entire Skopek family. In Corinne’s words, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.
Between funds from all sources, including GoFundMe, PayPal, and direct contribution, we have collected over 65% of the $100K goal. The gap might narrow a bit as actual costs are known, and probate begins. Need remains. Would you please extend your generosity further and help close that gap, and/or help spread the message again until it is met? If you prefer to donate by PayPal or direct check, let me know and I’ll provide requisite information. Here is the GoFundMe link: gofundme.com/jim-skopek-family-emergency-assistance-fund
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My sincerest apologies. I posted the message below in other places, but neglected to do so here. I have no excuse. The donors to Jim Skopek's family have been generous beyond belief and is appreciated beyond expression.

Update on Jim Skopek Family 2/8/19

Friends and Classmates,

Jim's family spent yesterday making arrangements for Jim's final resting place. Nothing yet is final except that Jim will be cremated, and they prefer a small, intimate memorial service initially, with a larger memorial service several weeks down the road with time and place TBD.

The incredible generosity of classmates, friends, family, and strangers eased the burden of what could have been tragedy compounding tragedy. Gifts donated through the GoFundMe site and directly have amounted to over 60% of the $100K need, and the result has been to reduce the stress Corinne and Krista would have endured. We still have a ways to go. Following is the link to the campaign site, and if you'd like to donate directly, please let me know and I'll supply the pertinent information: gofundme.com/jim-skopek-family-emergency-assistance-fund

The West Point Association of Graduates created a page for people wishing to provide comment on Jim's wonderful life. Here is the link, and you are encouraged to visit to read what others have written and leave your own comment. They are comforting to the Skopek family: http://bit.ly/2MSyLFK

Thank you to all who have contributed so much and helped spread the message. But for your love and support, the pain that Jim's daughters would have experienced would have been much greater. I'll close this with a quotation from Corinne previously posted:

"Know that we see every act of support. We count every dollar. We hear every comforting word and eat every meal and cry and marvel at it all. The people that have come to us in this time (some of them that don’t even know us or my dad) have been the only way we’re still functioning. We talk about everything that has been done for us and are so beyond staggered and humbled by it all. I’ve wanted to reach out to every single person to say something meaningful and show how much it means but it’s so overwhelming I find that I can’t even start. So just know we see it. My aunt has talked about wanting to put gold stars by peoples names and in my mind I do. I won’t ever look at people the same."
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$36,792 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 324 people in 6 months
Created January 6, 2019
Fundraising Team
on behalf of Corinne Skopek
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