As I See It...
By James E. Lee


[Author’s Note: The idea for this column came to me over Father’s Day weekend. As you will see the subject has been an important driver in my life.]
My maternal grandfather, James Lincoln McCray, was born during reconstruction, in 1869, in La Moille, Illinois, 90 miles west of Chicago, in Bureau County . He was a bachelor farmer into his 40’s, until a serious farming accident landed him in a hospital in Chicago. His recovery required continuing convalescent care back on the farm. He charmed his young nurse, Emily Kroll, to return to the farm and administer his care. She never made it back to Chicago. They later married and had three children, my mother being the oldest.

My paternal grandfather, Ernest E. Lee, was born in Brooklyn, Iowa, attended Iowa State University, and graduated in 1902 with a degree in a fledgling industry, electrical engineering. Before setting off on an adventure in Panama, he married Beulah Gleichman of Evansville, Indiana. He had been recruited to design electrical systems for the Panama Canal. They had four sons, my father being the third, and the first to be born in Chicago in 1917.
These two men, who came from completely different backgrounds, did have one thing in common. They both passed in 1947 a year before I was born. I never had the opportunity to share an ice cream cone at the corner drug store with either of them as I was growing up. Everything that I know about them comes from family history.

Nine years ago, I was blessed to be there for the birth of our first grandchild, and it would change my perspective on life. We are blessed that six grandkids kept coming, six to date, and a seventh, “Lucky #7” on the way. Melanie and I are committed to being involved in their lives. It means spending a lot of time in the Atlanta area where the first six live. And yes, we have shared some ice cream cones.

It has been six years since Atlanta became an important hub of family activity. That is when I decided it was time to start very slowly pulling back on business and spending more time with family.
Next year will mark my 50 years in the stamp business, 32 of them full time. This is an unusual business as it is a hobby business. All my clients have or had careers; stamp collecting, was just an aside, a way to escape the pressures of everyday life. I have been one of those people who provides that elixir for that escape. So, I am asked a lot: “Why would you want to retire from this truly wonderful hobby?” My reason is the same reason that each of you has expressed to me: “to enjoy family and the fruits of my lifelong labor.” For the past five years I have been just slowing down.

The hardest part has been giving up shows. I have enjoyed the camaraderie and being able to meet and talk with clients. Chicagopex, in November, will remain on my schedule. I will attend StampShow, and selected other shows from time to time, on a “busman’s holiday”’.

The next step is writing my final printed newsletter which will drop in November before Chicagopex. After that, my main delivery system will be a brand-new website (now several months behind), Bi-Weekly Email Newsletters, the phone, and maybe some in person visits. COVID-19 has proved that this business can succeed in a digital world. Finally, there will also be a blog where I will post my writings on essays and proofs.
As of now it will be several more years before I just fade away. In the meantime, why not take a granddaughter or grandson out for ice cream this summer?

Jim Lee

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