Overall hue of our community is a little duller now with the loss of Jim Maki

Guest Editorial by Doug Luthanen

James R. Maki 1948-2019 TGO
The overall hue of our community is a little duller now. The loss of Jim Maki pales our spirit. Jim was bright and colorful and no one who encountered him would fail to be impressed.
Jim lived in Ely his entire 70 years except for three years when he served in the US Army. In the Army he became a paratroop and MP. Back in Ely after his service, Jim became a millwright and worked in the iron mining industry. An energetic and productive guy, he created The Great Outdoors shop on Sheridan Street and ran it for over 30 years. He became literally synonymous with the store and he acquired the nickname “TGO.”
In the shop, Jim delivered fishing and outdoor gear advice sprinkled with social and political commentary From his forum at the map desk, he opined with zeal and without ambiguity. It has been noted that Jim may not always have been right, but he was always sure.
He had a keen memory for 50s and 60s music artists and songs and an equally clear memory of Ely’s people and businesses. He could cite the family tree of most of the Ely residents of his generation and tell you where they lived. He had mental maps of Sheridan and Chapman streets from the 50s to present. He knew many people and everyone knew Jim.
He was a handyman -- carpentry, plumbing, mechanical, refrigeration, and electrical work. But his best skill was fishing which he did on his beloved Burntside most days in the season and usually alone. We can only assume he challenged the fish to understand the correct way to think about politics.
He was known and admired by many and loved by those who knew him best. His friends referred to him as a “political junkie” and praised his humor. He was quick and witty, boisterous and self-effacing (he referred to himself as the class “cellartorian.”) One writer called him “funny and unforgettable” while another thanked Jim for saving his life through his observational skills. Referencing Jim’s loquaciousness, a friend said he’d visit the shop when his “ears needed exercising.”
Jim read the political mood of the country better than the pollsters and pros and lived to see the accuracy of his most audacious prediction.
News of Jim’s death on Saturday lit up phones and texts. Through his years and his strong persona, he built relationships with scores of people.
On the morning of Jim’s last day, he texted to ask how I was doing. How typical of him to think of the other guy first. We chatted about the day. He had family visiting for a steak, shrimp, and potato grilling. The night before he hosted a fish fry after catching three walleyes in Burntside. His last line to me was “another I threw back, figured we had enough.”
Jim’s final afternoon in the great outdoors was spent fishing Burntside in perfect July weather. How appropriate.
Good-bye old friend, you always took only what you needed and gave back much more.

Doug Luthanen is a lifelong Burntsider and lifelong friend of Jim Maki. He and Jim played, swam, boated, all-nighted, and argued at
Burntside for over 60 years.