Jim passed away on July 31, 2017, from sepsis, after a mercifully short illness. Born on February 17, 1940, he was the only child of James and Dorothy Gay McCue. He was popular in school due to his kindness and sense of humor. Jim served in the Army in Germany as a paratrooper. He married Mary Montgomery and had two sans, who were raised in West Grove, Pennsylvania. Jim worked many years for Philadelphia Electric Company and retired as a power plant operator in 1992, after which he embarked on a second career as a Pennsylvania State Constable. After his 33-year marriage to Mary ended, he met Martha, a Deputy Constable, and they worked together then married in 1998. For five years they were inseparable in their work and were known to each other and to a few close friends as Jimmy Coco and Johnnie Ringo, legends if only in each other’s minds.
Jim had his own sense of fairness and justice, and usually within the confines of legality, he acted according to his own principles. He once took into custody a juvenile who, during the drive to the detention facility, became nervous and fidgety when Jim mentioned that he would be searched yet again during intake. Jim deduced what the problem was, stopped his car by the side of road, and opened one of the boy’s handcuffs so he could work a small, previously overlooked packet of contraband up inside his sock and above the leg iron, and ditch it. The boy was already facing a heap of trouble for other reasons and so Jim handled this situation in his own way.
On a different occasion Jim’s sense of justice was not compassionate for a defendant, a twice previously-convicted man whose criminal predilection was directed against children and whose prognosis for rehabilitation was very poor. Just before transporting this prisoner from his arraignment back to jail, Jim stepped out the front door of the court house to address the gathered newspaper reporters. “I’ll be bringing him out the back door, not through here,” he informed them. A few minutes later he emerged from the back door with the prisoner, whose handcuffs were linked tightly to the transport belt so that he couldn’t hide his face from the photographers.
Most juveniles who were “in the system” during those years will remember Jim as the constable who transported them to their court-ordered placements all over the state. The trips were often long ones, and Jim always tried to establish some kind of rapport and be encouraging but without letting them forget it was they who were responsible for their current predicament. Most of those young people heard “the talk,” which went something like this: “You need to figure out if you really want to spend the rest of your life getting hauled around in the back of a cop car.” If his passenger happened to have an interest in trapping, fishing, wilderness skills, or hunting, Jim was especially talkative with them, as those were his interests too. One boy had a keen interest in learning how to read maps, but had never been taught a thing about it. The trip that day was a six hour ride to placement and by the end of it the boy was quite adept at map reading. Jim and Martha committed him to the detention facility then turned the car around for the long ride back home. Very shortly after arriving home, they got a call from Juvenile Probation to go to the boy’s home and take him into custody…again. He had learned and memorized well and had immediately escaped the placement and hitch-hiked straight back home, almost making better time than the constables. There were no more map-reading lessons for anybody after that. A story that illustrates Jim’s sense of humor was the time he and Martha went to arrest a man at a home shared by a dozen male farm-workers. A group of the men answered the door and denied that the defendant was there, however, Martha understood their language and heard that he was in the bedroom. Jim went into the bedroom, opened the closet door, and found…a naked woman. “(Name redacted)” Jim exclaimed. “What are YOU doing here?” as he recognized the woman from having arrested her in the past. “W-well I n-need a b-b-b-battery for my car” the woman cried in embarrassment. Jim glanced around at the group of men, who spoke no English, and at the woman, who spoke no Spanish except for maybe some numbers, and told her, “Just be glad you don’t need a transmission too” then he turned away, found the defendant hiding under the bed, handcuffed him and left.
Since Jim had always dreamed of leaving the East Coast and moving westward, in 2001 he retired from constable work and he and Martha settled into Crook County, Wyoming, where he made many friends and always tried to be helpful to them. If he made a commitment to work, he showed up early and worked hard. He liked helping at brandings in whatever capacity he could and always admired the skills of the ropers and the smarts of the horses. If the job was pulling a well pump or fixing a fence or setting in a window, he would do as he was asked and do it gladly. His friends remember him as usually saying, not “good-bye” after a visitor a phone call, but “if you need a hand, give me a holler.”
Jim leaves behind many friends back in Pennsylvania, in Wyoming and in Yuma, Arizona where he spent his last few winters. He is survived by his wife Martha and sons Jim (Lisa) and three granddaughters of La Jolla, California and Frank of Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Cremation has taken place and his ashes are where he wanted them to be. There was and will be no formal memorial service, according to his wishes, but he will be honored whenever and wherever his friends and family hold him in their thoughts and prayers.