MOWSF Blog | Senior Stories
James G. is a fast talker and an avid reader, a fact that quickly becomes apparent in any conversation. Before you know it, a half hour has passed by, and you’ve already discussed the papacy, the urbanization of America and the civil rights movement.
This intellectual, guitar-playing 70 year old grew up in the Schoharie Valley in upstate New York. “We were the only Black family in town,” he says. His father, who worked as a smelter, was a classically trained pianist, and his mother was the daughter of a vaudeville performer. Both had children from previous marriages before having seven kids together. This made James the youngest of 13 children.
After graduating from Siena Catholic College outside of Albany, New York, James held various jobs around the state and in Toronto. But in the late 1960s, he met three “long hairs” and decided to head West with them in a Volkswagen van. They went first to Colorado and then, eventually out to California, where James settled in San Francisco in a house on Cole Street.
For years, James worked as a waiter, a restaurant manager and later a restaurant owner. He became a MOWSF client after being hospitalized for congestive heart failure. Though he is still as sharp as they come, his medicine occasionally makes him dizzy and tired. “You never miss the water until the well runs dry,” he says. “Stay healthy.”
Despite health issues, James still loves to the play the guitar — he has four in total — and also playing with Eleanor, his kitten. The moment the gray-and-white feline hops in his lap, he becomes a different man, with a different voice. “Listen to me,” he says, poking fun at himself. “But isn’t she just the prettiest little cat?” She is, indeed.