Get ready to feel inspired! For years, Jim Mansfield and his wife, Karen, had been a staple of their small Ohio community, dutifully involved in everything from potlucks to the neighborhood watch. Everybody loved them. So, when Jim lost his wife of 31 years to cervical cancer earlier this week, his neighbors decided to come together and make sure he knew it.
What began with a simple, homemade cake that said “Jim, your wife Karen died” soon blossomed into an organized calling tree ensuring that every few hours, Jim would receive word from a familiar voice informing him that his wife had lost her battle with cancer.
And they didn’t let their support stop there. Jim’s neighbors started a rotation program to ensure that no matter what hour of the day it was, there was always at least one person outside his house with a large sign announcing Karen’s death.
“Around here, we like to look out for each other,” said Jill Lueking, the Mansfields’ next-door neighbor. “And if that means taking a few minutes out of our day to drop by and tell Jim face-to-face that his wife is dead, and then calling him immediately afterward and reminding him again, then that’s what we’ll do.”
They even got Jim’s work involved! A collection was circulated around his office, and within days, enough money had been raised to fund a three-year lease on a billboard right outside the window near his desk. When Jim returns from bereavement, he’ll be welcomed back by a 14’-by-48’ image of his late wife with the simple words “I’m gone, Jim” tastefully overlaid on it.
At a time when neighborhoods seem to lack a certain connectedness, it’s inspiring to see an entire community band together to lift the spirits of one of their own. Jim’s wife may be gone from this earth, but thanks to some incredible neighbors, that won’t be forgotten.