Updated on April 21, 2013
I'm making the transition from high school teacher, and coaching boys and girls cross country and track to doing pretty much the same thing on the collegiate level. I also participate in Iron Man events when possible.
In October 2006 I lost the love of my life to breast cancer. We had been married for nine years. It takes a while to get over that. Then in August 2010, a promise I made but thought I would never have to fulfill stared me in the face. A single-parent mother of twins, who at the time were age 14, had asked me that if anything ever happened to her parents, would I take responsibility for her children until they came of legal age. She died in April 2007 of leukemia. Her parents were killed in a car accident in mid-August of 2010. The kids were age 17 at the time. My wife and I didn't have any children.
Today, I now have two children that I have adopted, a boy and a girl, that I love as my own. They have since turned 18 this past March. By adopting them I have given them an instant family in my own, and some sense of a normal family by having two sides with my wife's family. They now have grandparents again; but beyond that, they also have aunts and uncles, cousins; all kinds of relatives they had never experienced before.
My children graduated from high school this spring and will attend Ohio State University in the fall. I have made the move with them to my Alma Mater to both teach and coach beginning with the fall quarter as well. Since I grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area just 12 miles from campus, this really will be going home for me.
A new chapter on parenting began July 13th when my foster son came to live with us. He had been at our previous school, and he had been one of my students, as well as on my teams. His father, step-mother, and two step-sisters were killed in a crash in which he was the only survivor. It didn't work out for him to stay with family because of differences in their children's ages and genders. There had also been an issue with their families living great distances away from each other and not really knowing the boy that well. He happened to be my adopted son's best friend, so the decision wasn't a difficult one once I discovered that the father had talked with the family lawyer about this arrangement, they just hadn't had time to talk to me before the accident. The boy will be a senior in high school, in fact the same high school I would have attended if there would have been 3 high schools at that time instead of the single one that there was.
We just moved to the Columbus area in mid July, 2011, and we're quickly getting up to speed in our new surroundings.
On January 8, 2012, tragedy hit our family. On a warm Sunday afternoon my children and I were out running in downtown Columbus, when we became victims in an accident in which a car coming from the other direction was stopped at a red light started prematurely, crossed the road, jumped the curb and struck all 4 of us. All three of my children were killed (they died over a 4 day period) and I received extensive injuries. The driver of the car was caught and is serving jail time for 3 vehicular manslaughter charges.
Due to the extensiveness of my injuries, the children were cremated because I would not be able to attend a memorial service immediately following their death. The inclement weather in northern Ohio contributed to the decision of setting the date for a Celebration of Life service for Monday, March 19th, which doubles as the twins birthday.
In a blink of an eye one's life can be changed forever. Make sure you express your love each day to your loved ones, you may not get another chance.
Epilogue (Guest written by Johnny, Jim's cousin)
On Saturday, April 13, 2013, while in the service of the U.S. Navy as a SEAL, Jim Cummins came to the end of his short time on earth, in 36 years. It is said that the good die young. In his case then, he must have been very good. In that time he crammed as much life into it as he possibly could. He was an award winning educator, whose teaching concepts saved his school district thousands of dollars, and saved them from having to lay off teachers. He created a study environment where students and teachers both willingly gave up Sunday afternoons and early evenings to work on school assignments, and local businesses fed those who showed the drive and desire to make education a priority. The result of this experiment was the grades of those who participated averaged at least 1 grade higher and sometimes 2 full grades higher than the regular student body. After being implemented for a few years, a large enough percentage of the student body attended that when winter storms threatened to force the school to attend long into the summer, his school was able to count these extra days because attendance had been taken from the very first session, and they met EVERY state requirement from the beginning, and again saved his school district thousands of dollars in teacher salaries alone.
Jim was the coach of state champion cross country and track teams for both boys and girls for two different high schools in two different states. To the best of our knowledge, that's pretty rare. In addition he was a rare athlete himself. He held, and still does, high school records of various distances, then went on to Ohio State where he excelled. That allowed him to turn pro and run on the Iron Man circuit.
Educationally, was where Jim excelled. Many were not aware that Jim held a total of 27 degrees, including 9 undergraduate, 15 Masters, and 3 Doctorates. It was at school where his life was dramatically changed when he was brutally raped at the age of 12. Being small in stature and weight, he was easily overpowered and repeatedly raped throughout the day. In those days all the rape counselors were women which served to traumatize him more. His father had passed away two years prior, and at that time I had taken the role of an older brother to help him adjust to life. We enrolled in martial arts classes to provide Jim with a means of self defense and discipline. He took to it like a duck to water and eventually earned 12 black belts in various martial arts disciplines. This became Jim's first line of defense throughout his life. A few years later when his wife was raped a few weeks before their marriage, he captured her rapist using his skills as a fighter. That deed also landed the two of them in the witness protection program because of who the rapist's uncle was. Jim refused to enter the full program because of what he had to offer society, so his program was modified.
What Jim offered was a Child Abuse Protection through Education curriculum which was the basis of his first doctorate. It also became adopted in Ohio and Indiana and taught at Ohio State, where he taught the first class to faculty members. His 2nd and third doctorates are as a MD and a psychiatrist.
Jim served as chapter president of Habitat for Humanity in two locations. He served on food pantry boards. He also worked monthly at free clinics in various locations. When he was able to retired from the Navy it was his dream to open a free clinic in Texas, and he had already hired one nurse for that staff.
For the past 15 years he organized Christmas baskets of food for the needy in two large cities (populations between 250K - 1M), where $200-250.00 of groceries where provided to a family at Christmas for a cost of $23.39 (this last year's actual cost after donations!) When government officials discovered what Jim had been doing since college days at OSU, he was invited to serve as an advisor on how to provide for needy families year round. Jim was proud of that appointment since he was the lone conservative on a all-liberal committee, and he was brought on as the expert advisor with experience.
Many of you knew Jim as a nice guy. He was. He was also the last guy you ever wanted to get mad at you. He may have been small, 5'6"/120 lbs, he was also a mighty warrior being able to bench press 225 lbs over 20 times. Jim would forgive until he knew that was a hopeless case for the other person. Once he lost his wife to breast cancer 6 years ago, and his children to a failed assassination attempt on him in January 2012, he felt that his life had been cut short. Starting with his father at age 10, and including 4 grandparents, his brother, his first girl friend, many aunts and uncles, some cousins, some friends from school, his life has been filled with death. He recently told me that in 26 years he had lost 26 family or close friends to death, a staggering amount for one so young. Except for his mother, 2 brothers (1 that he hadn't seen in years), and myself, we are the one's that kept him going except for you, his friends.
Then there are so many in his fu-family, and others that weren't in that family, and yet were important to him. Thank you to all of you for the role you played.
There are few men in the family, but I know that two of them were very special to Jim - Chec and Steve. These men served in the military and you had a common bond. Thank you for your friendship with Jim. Understand that Jim had a seat at the table that none of us could ever have, and it cost him his life and the life of his men. His men refused to leave him when they had a chance to leave. He ordered them off the copter, and they refused, they stayed to protect him. That tells you something about both them and Jim. Jim started something that can't be stopped now. That's just the way he was. I can see him grinning, encouraging us to finish the job. We have big shoes to fill.
To all of us I know that Jim understands that we're sad today. But he would have us sift through our memories of our times together with him and remember what those times were like. What kind of a man was he? Did he inspire us? Did we laugh together? Did we help one another? Did he help me believe in God because of his life? So many questions, so few answers, are you glad that you met? Then use what you learned and share that with someone else.
THE STORY CONTINUES IN JOHNNY...
This page has been maintained by Johnny, Jim's cousin. Johnny normally would have been at Jim's side like he had been for most things, but then both Jim and Johnny were scheduled for retirement from the Navy on January 15th. Prior to that time Johnny found out from his daughter that she was expecting and would like for him to be around, and when his other two daughters agreed, and Jim found out about it, he agreed that Johnny should retire on schedule too. Some government hangups prevented Jim from retiring at that time, and we know what the ultimate outcome from that was.
The ultimate outcome from Johnny's news is that today, May 14th, a healthy baby girl, his 3rd granddaughter, and 5th grandchild in total was born. Both mother and child are doing great! Essentially, Johnny is alive today because of this little girl, his three daughters and their request.
It is a humbling experience, and yet I know that sitting in the helicopter there is nothing I could have done to save Jim and his men. What I can do is bring awareness to what happened and pray that justice will be their reward. The troops that Jim commanded are the troops that I personally trained. They have pledged their strength, skills and and support to that end.
I have survived for another reason; to continue the various ministries/services that Jim began. I was Jim's sounding board when Jim was in the Dream Phase. Then he would tell me to figure out how to make his dream work. The truth is there was a lot of give and take back and forth, but there are some dreams not yet acted upon. And then there is the conversations. Those can continue. I am not Jim; I won't do things just like him, but I might be similar to him in some ways. We studied together, at the same school, under the same professors. We are blood, so we think alike, and do most things alike, but we are not identical, and we are not the same, but in one way we are the same; we have the same heart; we want to help others.
What I have found is requests don't arrive in single file, they arrive in bunches like a hospital ER, so the decision as to who goes first is made the same way, "Who needs the help most desperately?" If it ever appears that I'm ignoring you, and you know that I'm online, just remember there's someone who's in worse shape than you! You may not think so, but there really is.
Preferred memorials are to the college fund of a young person in Jim's memory, then contact us with the name of the young person and the amount. We have a tree where we're posting the names and amounts as a tribute to Jim and his love for education.
So far college fund memorials have been established in the names of 739 young people among family members, friends, and former students at two high schools and Ohio State. Additionally, memorial have now been established in Jim's memory in virtually every state of the union, and now some from outside of the United States have begun as well. Including large donations ranging from $1,000 to $100,000, the total at 6 pm on May 14, 2013 was $451,380.00 going to your children in Jim's memory. I know he would be proud. In addition, a $250,000 endowment fund for scholarships will be established in his name from his estate for the purpose of establishing a perpetual scholarship in the psychiatry department at Ohio State. There is no deadline to donate to the memorial college fund. It's your children that will benefit!
Jim often said that no one is truly gone until no one says their name and shares their stories/memories. His Facebook account is being transformed so that people can come and share their stories, as many and as often as they choose, to help with their healing, but also to help keep his memory alive.
Jim's Facebook account can be found at https://www.facebook.com/jc4670