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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2005

 

Jim Scanlon Dies

Jim Scanlon, writer, scientist, youth advocate and friend to so many was swept away on the morning of April 14, suffering a fatal heart attack while driving in San Rafael. He was on his way home after complaining about respiratory discomfort in his regular yoga class early Thursday morning. Taken to Marin General Hospital, he was dead on arrival.
Jim was in good physical health and was known for taking care of himself with ample exercise and a healthy diet.
This was the end of a remarkable life's journey that began December 6, 1934 on Staten Island in West Brighton on the East Coast. He graduated from Ft. Richmond High School after attending Catholic grammar school. During high school he worked as a weekend longshoreman after his father died. On high school graduation he joined the army during the Korean War, and served as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division and in the 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.
Leaving the military, Jim attended Columbia University and at graduation with a liberal arts degree worked for the Department of Defense for five years in Frankfurt Germany. Upon leaving his position in Germany, he traveled to Spain and attended the University of Madrid where he perfected Spanish. He then traveled through Mexico and came to California to see his friend Richard Sloan in Inverness. He returned to Staten Island and worked as a caseworker for the New York City Welfare Department.
There, he married Mary Bresnihan and the couple moved to Marin. He began a career as a Probation Officer working with young people and later as journalist writing about Marin and science.

Richard Sloan's friendship with Jim began in military service and continued during a stint in military intelligence. "Nobody could have ever had a better friend. There was nobody else like him." That friendship flourished for more than 40 years.
"So many things made him special," Sloan said. "I never heard him say anything negative except for politicians. He accepted everyone. He was non-judgmental. He was always up.
"He was so aware of the people around him. So aware of other people's needs. He knew something special about everyone he came into contact with. He made you feel special."

In his 26-years with the Marin County Probation Department he was always a straight shooter who played by the book. Some would describe him as a hard-ass, but not over the long run.
Lawance Wheeler, a juvenile probationer with whom Jim worked, on hearing of Scanlon's death, wrote that when he had met Jim he had been on wrong path, without parental supervision or caring...
"I was shocked to hear of Jim's death. I wish I could have saved his life as he'd saved mine some 40 years ago...
"He was a 'tough talking hardass' in the view of us kids. But he was also there to back you up 100% if your deserved it...
"Because of Jim, my first job was a Juvenile counselor in a group home in San Rafael. I later completed college and became a teacher, and worked for the UN in Southeast Asian refugee camps...
"Without Jim, I would have most likely ended up as a most of my peers, either dead or in prison...
"Jim, I'm sorry I couldn't say 'thanks' to your face one more time."

Retired Chief Probation Officer Ron Baylo said, "I had the pleasure of Jim's friendship for almost 30 years. His intelligence, integrity and endless curiosity were remarkable. I am deeply saddened by his passing. The community has suffered a great loss."
Baylo spoke of Scanlon's personal loyalty: "He was a very unique guy. He was always there for you. He was amazing. There was an incredible level of personal loyalty that he would have for friends."

Jim wrote for the Coastal Post from the early beginnings of the alternative newspaper in West Marin. "He began as a columnist and turned into the finest of writers with the most convoluted and complicated subjects imaginable-the tortured Marin County Courts," said Publisher Don Deane.
"Jim covered the Marin Municipal Water District for years, championed mutual environmental causes with Leo Cronin, delved into AIDS before it became a recognized medical catastrophe, pioneered writing on ozone, global warming and the Marin County Family Courts. He had enormous curiosity and attention to detail. He was an excellent researcher. He cannot be replaced," Deane said.

He was a member of the US Geological Society and traveled to Chile to do research on ozone every year for a decade. He helped fund library positions in Punta Arenas and provided needed scientific equipment for research.
Forrest Mims, a science associate of Jim's and the Chairman of the Environmental Science Section, Texas Academy of Science, observed, "His passing is a huge loss for citizen science, for he was in the process of preparing a feature for THE CITIZEN SCIENTIST (which I edit; www.sas.orgt/tcs) on his latest findings from South America."
His wife, Mary Scanlon, from whom he was divorced, predeceased Jim. Surviving Mr. Scanlon are his brothers Kenneth and John, a sister, Joyce Campbell, and a number of nieces and nephews.
Jim did not wish to have a funeral or memorial service. Friends will gather to celebrate his life in late May. Notices will be published in the Pt. Reyes Light, the Chronicle and the Marin Independent Journal.

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