Remembering Jim Palmer

Remembering Jim Palmer 1934 – 2013

With great sadness we report the CATWALK Institute lost it’s co founder Jim Palmer on September 17th.  A memorial celebration of Jim was held Sunday, October 6 on the grounds with a walk over the land from Catslair to Catwalk that he so loved.  Led by a bagpiper over 100 friends of Jim participated sharing reminiscences of Jim as they processed through autumn leaves over the misty landscape for a picnic lunch while enjoying Jim’s favorite views from the CATWALK lawn It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to say good bye to a man much loved. We at CATWALK would like to thank our many friends for their extraordinary outpouring of support and affection. The response received from everyone was truly overwhelming and deeply appreciated.

Jim’s Story

The western part of Virginia, in the late 40’s and early 50’s, was a quieter simpler place to grow up. Populated with early settlers from England, kids learned basic values: right, wrong, the value of friends and family. Jim Palmer grew up in Keokee, Virginia (population 400; a high school class of just 16) with a strong belief in the values of that place and time. He also developed a sense of who he was and comfort with the person he was to become.

A new bicycle ordered through Sears Roebuck and a love of baseball filled his early years. Jim cherished the beauty of the Appalachian mountains. Adventures in nature and occasionally slipping aboard trains traveling to places unknown were his fun. Growing taller and more poised as the years unfolded, he headed to Dayton for work where he was discovered by University of Dayton’s legendary coach Blackburn, who recognized Jim’s potential in spite of the fact that he had never played basketball before Dayton. College basketball paid the tuition with a little left over, which was o.k. with Jim as he was used to doing a lot with very little.

A key player on the legendary team during UD’s top ranked years, Jim was drafted in the second round by the NBA but pursued a more lucrative offer with AAU team Peoria Cats winning the national championship in 1958. As an AAU All-American he played in the first US team against the Soviet Union which in later years led to his escorting trips for top business leaders to the USSR and extensive travels globally throughout his life.

A professional career in the NBA ensued from 1958 to 1961 first with the Cincinnati Royals and then two years with New York Knickerbockers. A big man without pretension, Jim’s professional career cemented his understanding of who he was and team values that became the touchstone to which he would return for the rest of his life.

In l967 Jim met Purcell Scheu and became the wings upon which she soared. She charging forward, he became the bedrock on which they stood. From San Francisco to Chicago and in recent years the Hudson Valley, it was a marriage that really worked.

In their last ten years together, Jim and Purcell, embarked on the Catwalk project. This became the all consuming passion for both of them. Purcell with her “project a minute pace” relied on Jim to keep everything moving along. Jim was proud of Catwalk, taking care of the smallest details and overseeing all large changes made to the property. He was most often found chatting with tradesmen, residents and pals at his round table in the west garden, encouraging and inspiring goals and values in others always with a rich sense of humor that was intrinsic to the way he saw the world. He truly was Lord of his Manor in every way.

Jim’s last days were spent at Catwalk , looking out to the Hudson River comforted by the views from the porch on the property and with the woman he loved. To end this way seems so right. Larger than life, Jim was a gentle giant in his humility and care for others. Losing him will leave a tremendous void for those who were fortunate to have been a part of his life.




Jim Palmer’s Procession from Catwalk Art Residency on Vimeo.