Our family was blessed with two Down Syndrome brothers. Our oldest DS brother, Jimmy, began hospice care on March 10. His tired little body was done fighting infections and it was best to let him go peacefully. He was not high functioning like many people who are Downs. It depends on which chromosomes are affected -- which is a whole other story. He passed peacefully surrounded by love on March 16, 2020.
Like the rest of our family, he was funny, bossy, opinionated, and righteous. He loved to joke and tease, sported a spitfire sense of humor, and a dancing ability that we can only imagine holding a candle to. He personified the special Olympic hero bravado at various swim meets, holding his fists up high in victory stance and showing off for the crowd. He so naturally managed to capture hearts throughout his life.
Jimmy was one of the bravest, strongest, most resilient, loving, compassionate people you could ever meet. He was blessed with innocent and simple wisdom that guided him, and us, throughout his life. Two of his favorite sayings that helped him deal with life’s challenges were “Not today” (instead of just saying no) and our favorite, “it will be ok”. Words of wisdom we could all use during our own challenges!
We were never ashamed or embarrassed by him because the “example of acceptance” set by our parents was just part of our life. I can remember so many times when we would be somewhere and children would be curious. Our dad would patiently explain that though he looked and acted differently on the outside he had the same feelings inside as they did. Every teenage friend we ever had at our house, and they were always at our house, embraced
Jimmy too. From motorcycle rides to dumping a whole gallon of green paint and running down the street like a crazed green Martian, he kept our household lively. One of his favorite tricks was to pull the old-time fire calls and hide to watch the fire trucks arrive on the scene.
He lived to almost 61 years of age and for those of you who remember, he was born the same day as Packy the elephant! His life was always surrounded by the love of his family and more friends than you can imagine. Whether you were at times a “cow, a “pig”, or a “shut-up” recipient, and a few words I can’t mention, you were loved and on his radar. From Jimmy and my parents, we learned to embrace and accept differences and treat everyone with compassion.
Anyone who knew him has a Jimmy story: through him, we learned to listen to those stories as a way to bring insight for what others may be experiencing. We were taught, never to make fun of or judge others -- and to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves. Jimmy’s uncles, Josh, Demian, and Abe, would tell their friends never to make fun of anyone, especially in front of my mom, cause she can drive this car and knock you upside the head at
the same time! And oh my did Jimmy love his niece Evan. Tousling her hair, he would oftentimes point that authoritative finger of his at her, shaking it in admonishment of one of her many antics!
Some people would say how sad they were for us to have been burdened with special needs kids but I think we can all tell you we learned more about loving, giving, and selflessness from this experience than we would have ever known otherwise. My brothers and my parents taught us compassion and we carry that lesson every day. Our parents, Marcel and Patricia Kies, along with many others were strong advocates for the rights of the mentally challenged and worked hard in their advocacy to bring them fair and just treatment. Today is different because of them and people like them who have fought hard for their rights. When Jimmy was born the doctors told my parents to place him in an institution and forget they ever had him. I can't imagine all we all would have missed if my parents had listened to that advice.
Please keep us in your prayers. He is our first sibling to pass and as joyous as we are he has begun his long-awaited peaceful journey, we will miss him too. Godspeed Jimmy Kies!
He is survived by sisters Tess and Marcia, brothers Matthew and Jason, nieces, nephews, in-laws and outlaws, including nephews Joshua, Demian, Abram, Niece Evan, great-nieces Josselyn, McKenna, and Alexis, great-nephews, McKennon, Isaak, Sawyer, and Rowan and our significant others including Vonnie, Nicholas, Leah, Beth, Amy, Michael, Amanda, Brian, and Deborah, along with countless friends and relatives. Thank you to all the caretakers who took such amazing care of Jimmy over the years. And a special heartfelt thank you to Lynn Ethridge for loving him and being his “mom” till he said goodbye.
We are not sure yet because of all that is going on when the service will be but we will notify you. In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to the Oregon Special Olympics in Jimmy Kies’s name. Just Google Oregon Special Olympics and follow the donate menu. Thank you.