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JIMMY LYNN ~ March 16, 1924–July 14, 2011 ~ In Memoriam


Al Young and Jimmy Lynn at the Berkeley Bowl, circa 2005


Late in the afternoon of July 14, 2011, the singer Dima telephoned to sadly tell me our pal Jimmy Lynn (officially James C. Lynn) had died. His landlord, Chris Martin, who lives next door to Jimmy’s West Street apartment in South Berkeley, had found Dima’s phone number on the floor next to Jimmy’s body and phoned her. Chris told me he had noticed a Whole Foods paper grocery bag, which had been sitting in front of the door for several days. It was actually a bag containing a carton of chicken soup, two squares of cornbread, a bottle of water and receipts for two parking tickets that Jimmy had asked me to take care of. Seeing that the food had spoiled, Chris disposed of the bag. When Dima’s call reached me, I was sitting in my car parked outside Venezia, a popular Italian restaurant on University Avenue. I drove right over to Jimmy’s in time to see the Alameda County Coroner’s van and a Berkeley Police car in front of my friend’s residence. I rushed up his steps and was greeted by a policewoman and the coroner’s office agent. They asked if I knew the man. I told them yes, that I was probably his only friend. For how long? For more than 50 years. Does he have any kin? No. Would you be willing, the policewoman asked, to help arrange a funeral or burial for him? I’ll do what I can, I said. He always told me he wants to be buried beside his mother. Years ago they purchased a twin crypt. Where is the cemetery? At first I thought it was Chapel of the Chimes, but it was Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland

Photo: Al Young

Seated beside jazz singer Dima, Jimmy Lynn swaps stories with his old friend Sandy Simon at the memorial service for Jim Johnson, Jimmy and Al Young’s longtime buddy | Berkeley 2007

Photo: Carl Martineau

Al Young, Bobby Theseeker (a.k.a. Jimmy Lynn), and Diane Di Pisa at the March 2009 opening of Berkeley in the Sixties, an exhibit of black and white photographs of Berkeley’s lively Telegraph Avenue denizens taken by the late Elio Di Pisa, who managed the Caffè Mediterraneum from the 1960s through the 1990s. When Al and Jimmy met in the summer of 1960, Jimmy — encouraged by the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow — was still writing and editing his never-published novel, a 1000-page trilogy. Set largely in Mexico, the book’s thrill- and truth-seeking narrator is Bobby Theseeker (pronounced THÉH-seeker). Jimmy Lynn, who kept a low profile, asked me to not identify him directly when this photo first went up at in the photo-feature Spring in This World of Poor Mutts.

Al Young

Jimmy Lynn tinkering in the backyard of his previous South Berkeley home

Photo: Sandra Simon

Jimmy Lynn in 2010 about to celebrate his 86th birthday at a brunch hosted by Sandra Simon at her Buddhist home close to the Golden Gate Bridge

a Kindness of Strangers snapshot

Al Young, Sandy Simon, Jimmy Lynn, and the Golden Gate Bridge bask in the light of an affection decades deep | Spring 2010

To be continued. Because he has no apparent next of kin and, despite my continuous nagging, did not leave a will, Jimmy Lynn, a retired longshoreman and writer, may likely be classified as an indigent by the County, which will cremate then bury his remains in Napa in a kind of pauper’s grave. His belongings may be plundered and his bank account and savings confiscated by the State. This is an outrage to the many people who, for much of his life, have known, cared about and loved this eccentric, intelligent, hard-working man. And so I have decided to write at length about my friend Jimmy Lynn: Alabama-born, Utah-reared, New York-seasoned, and California-tempered. Consider this start preliminary.

— Al Young
28 July 2011


Page under construction


15 Responses to “JIMMY LYNN ~ March 16, 1924–July 14, 2011 ~ In Memoriam”

  1. carl martineau Says:

    .. thanks al ..

    for covering “Lives of the Poor and Anonymous”‘..

    thank you Dima .. for “callin’ out” the coroner’s office ..

    “.. GIVE ‘EM HELL !!! ..”

    carl martineau .. berkeley california ..

  2. Sdm Says:

    Thanks, Al
    So this is why I haven’t heard from you for more than a month. Something so sad about Jimmy; would like get your thoughts sometime about the Diaspora African Jimmys. He is not alone.

  3. Roberta Schuldenfrei Rivin Says:

    Many, many years ago I was a student at Berkeley. Jimmy was a very special friend who called me “Alberta.” Alberta’s life took her many places. I settled in Paris a long time ago, returning rarely to the US. But Jimmy left a mark on my life. I called him some time back and then tried to call again, but the number was disconnected. I sent people to his old address to learn that the address was no more and no cards or letters were ever forwarded – just returned. Today I write from Brazil – having just googled “Jimmy Lynn” – to find that his soul is out there somewhere – and I can no longer call. Hey, Jimmy, you are and always were very special!

  4. Al Says:

    Thank you, Roberta and thank you, Alberta —

    Jimmy spoke to me often and always with affection and respect. “I’ve got this friend Alberta,” he said. “She runs an art gallery in Paris and she’s been trying to get me to move over there. But, man, you know how I am about flying. I flew back to New York to be with my mother when she fell sick. Stayed for years. Then we flew back here to California. Flying scares me. For twelve years I took care of my mother. Upped her nutrition. She almost made one hundred.” His wish was to be laid to rest beside her in a pre-paid twin-crypt at a mausoleum in Oakland. Right now I’m fighting hard to keep Alameda County from dumping our retired longshoreman/writer friend’s remains into a kind of pauper’s grave in Napa. He was anything but indigent. Sadly, he left no will. I stayed on him about it, but he never got around to making provisions. With no biological family or next of kin, he’s a bureaucratic dream. I find it miraculous that you just happened to be Googling his name from Brazil and happened upon this post. You’ll be hearing more from me soon.

    With appreciation,

  5. Roberta Schuldenfrei Rivin Says:


    This has been a rather “emotional” day for me and I came back to this blog wanting to see the photos of Jimmy again. By the way, he hadn’t changed an iota over the years, that same smile that shows first in his eyes. I found your answer. I wish I could help you clear up the bureaucratic mess and put Jimmy’s bones to rest where he wanted them to be. His soul is off and away, I’m sure. I believe that things happen when we are ready to receive them – thus my Googling Jimmy’s name was not a miracle but was in some way meant to be. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    Abraços from Olinda, Brazil,

  6. Al Says:

    Dear Roberta,

    Please know that you’ve been more helpful than you could possibly know. Simply by getting in touch and responding to the page I’ve posted on Jimmy, you’ve let the world know that Jimmy was remembered, cared for and loved.

    At this moment, Emily Galimba, one deputy Alameda County public administrator, is reviewing Jimmy’s case and asking for a full referral from the Sheriff’s and Coroner’s offices. They had planned to cremate and dump his ashes into the the pauper’s grave at Napa by Friday the 19th of August. Now that they’ve slowed down, I’m letting myself look forward to a proper ending. All I want to see is the fulfillment of his burial wish.

    Of course I’ll be in touch via email.


  7. Sandra Simon Says:

    Hey Al, it’s so comforting to see these pictures of Jimmy. I just checked again to see if there were any updates. What’s happening? Love to you

  8. Al Says:

    Yes, Sandy —

    Just to get Alameda County authorities to phone and tell me Jimmy will be laid to rest beside his mother has tired me, well, not out. But almost. The next-door landlord and I, we’re still excavating.

    The sad plot thickens.

    Offline we go.

    Love as always,

  9. Saundra Saperstein Says:

    Dear Al,
    Jimmy was my first love, a dear friend, and a mentor. I met him when I was a freshman at Berkeley in 1955. He started a conversation with me at ‘George’s Cafe’ on a Saturday night during a Latin jazz session. When Jimmy found out that I was from Ogden, Utah he laughed uproariously and told me he was from Salt Lake. That was the beginning of our relationship, which went on for many years, not necessarily always smooth ones, but important ones. He introduced me to ideas and people, heightened my awareness of life, and challenged me intellectually. I adored him. We had a few conversations over these many years, but our last one was shortly after his mother died. I am so touched by the fact that he wanted to be buried next to her and so sad to learn that it probably hasn’t happened. I tried to reach him twice through the Long Shoreman’s Union [ILWU], but he never responded. I was disappointed but knew that was just Jimmy. His memory will always be dear to me.

  10. Saundra Saperstein Says:

    Al, I hope you will respond to the comments I made yesterday, just to let me know that I have communicated my feelings about Jimmy to someone else who really cared about him. You were obviously a very dear friend.

  11. Al Says:

    Dear Saundra:

    I and, I’m sure, all of us who loved and cared for Jimmy more than appreciate the heart-deep memories you’ve shared. Now I’m going to check with the funeral home and cemetery to find out where his remains have been laid.

    Jimmy’s hard-headed failure to file a will has blurred and short-circuited everything.

    I’ll let you and everyone in loop know what I find.

    With every kind wish,

  12. Saundra Saperstein Says:

    Dear Al,
    Do you now know where Jimmy was buried? I continue to think about him and to miss him.

  13. Al Says:

    Dear Saundra,

    I can finally report that our Jimmy Lynn has indeed been laid to rest in a well-engraved crypt beside his mother, Rachel Lynn Fuller, at beautiful Mountain View Cemetery in Piedmont, CA, USA.

    Soon I will take a proper photograph of the site and post it to you and all his other friends, acquaintances, and well-wishers.

    Yours warmly,

  14. June Zwerdling Says:

    Dear Al,

    I came across this site when I was looking for news of Saundra Saperstein. Saundra, “Alberta,” and I were close friends and sometimes roommates during our years at UC Berkeley – and Jimmy was a special, beloved friend to the three of us. I, too, tried to locate him many times during past years (for myself and for them) – unsuccessfully. I wish that Saundra or Roberta had let me know earlier about his death, but I am grateful to you for all you have done in Jimmy’s honor. Had I known about the situation, I would have tried to help. I agree that Jimmy had not changed in all these years. I would have recognized him instantly. He had an infectious laugh, warm smile, gracious manner, and gentle attitude. He got me through my first encounter with a dreaded essay assignment at Cal. He took my desperate Midnight phone call from the dining room at my dorm and walked me through the process with just the right amount of admonition, patience, and literary advice. After all, “It’s only 500 damn words!” I think of it often, and relish the memory fondly. Thanks, Jimmy! And thank you, Al, for being his friend, for working so hard to fulfill his burial wishes, and for setting up this site. I hope it is still operating. — June Zwerdling

  15. Al Says:

    Dear June: Yes, still shines in cyberspace. I’m glad you ventured across it long enough to share your memories of the Jimmy Lynn you knew at Cal Berkeley back when I was a kid in Detroit. Like you and so many others, I miss his laughter, warmth and orneriness. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch. As you see, I’ve posted your note on the site for caring friends and viewers to access. Wishing you all the best — Al

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