young boy, first to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and soon thereafter to southern Illinois, where he and his brother operated several dry goods stores. Jim’s mother emigrated with her parents and four siblings from Poland to St. Louis, where they opened a clothing store.
Jim was raised 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, in Pinckneyville, Illinois, a coal strip-mining and farming town of 3,000 people. His father’s store was in the old opera building on the town square. There his mother became the buyer for ladies’ clothes and household linens, and she often took Jim with her on buying days in St. Louis and New York City. Jim occasionally worked in the store, but he disliked it immensely, saying he hated to ask for money. Until the end of his life, however, as a philanthropist he relished the idea of giving money to worthy causes.
His childhood playmates, John Sheley, later the editor of the Pinckneyville Democrat, and Robert Bortle, now a retired coal miner, remember Jim as an average boy in every way. He liked swimming and fishing in the creek, riding bikes, and playing ball. He owned the first electric model railroad in town, a hobby he pursued even as a medical resident. Always fascinated by ingenious machines, which he called “toys,” he loved to build or tinker, to repair or restore, to fashion or play with things.
No one from either side of his family had an academic or medical background. Jim attended a German Lutheran preschool before entering the Pinckneyville public grade schools. At age 12 his parents sent him to Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois, where he took a keen interest in photography and was active in several sports. He was salutatorian of his class of 1939. To prepare for college and a major in chemical engineering, Jim worked summers at St. Joe Lead Company. He had originally planned to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he changed his