Marking my upcoming Oct 19th 25th heart transplant anniversary, I’ve been trying to go that
extra mile to use that milestone to educate the public that organ transplants work and often offer great life extensions
with my story with special thanks to my heart donor, Roberto Cuebas

(<– his photo seen here).



On June 10th I was honored with the UNOS National Donor Memorial award for service to the transplant community, especially with 20+ years of UNOS committee and twice UNOS board three year elections to serve on that board.  I wanted to share that special moment where both my wife, Pam (herself an organ donor mom) and Regina Cunningham, CEO for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where I received that heart transplant and who sponsored my nomination for this unique award.

Join me for that event with this video recording (and know that when Sue Dunn, UNOS president, made her award presentation, she covered all of the points I was about to mention in my well prepared and practiced talk to follow, I had to throw away my 5 pages of notes and just ‘wing it’!)


My good friend, Mary Wu, shares via her blog beautiful inspiring stories from her life that always end with an engaging question/invitation to her reader.
Today she wrote about family and friends special times involving food and asked in conclusion:
“When has something so simple been so incredible in bringing you closer together to share and care for each other? Have you ever been in a place of sharing so comfortably and easily with people outside your inner circle? What childhood memory do you have of food or some other commonality that brought your loved ones together?”

I would like to share my response to her (Her invites are so well done that I always respond to her!)

I’m always too busy with other priorities to read and respond to your Blog Updates, BUT since they are so well written and end with an engaging thoughtful question/invitation to share the reader’s feedback to your topic, I drop those other priorities and treat myself to your next read and then find memories or life experiences to share back to your invite.

So it is with today – “Sorry no time to read and write…” but I did just stop other tasks to read this one and now must respond as usual.

Recalling my childhood adventures in the early 1950’s:
As to my childhood cooking memories, your prose brought back beautiful memories of going out to the local woods and picking blackberries with my wonderful father (we share that love and special blessing of the dad’s you and I had/have in our lives, learning over time in conversations with friends how very rare that ‘special dad’ is, given how few have that like we do/did).

Then we would come home and start cooking up the blackberry jam that was so very special (Ah, those peanut butter – Skippy of course – and jelly/jam sandwiches with this homemade treat from our picking labors which added to its taste). Mary, thanks for getting me to take time out today to revisit those memories.

As adults, my wife, Pam, and I shared a simple unique visit with a good friend down in Georgia peach country when after his very special birthday party for his very special dad (which we had been invited to and driven down to Birmingham Alabama from NJ to attend – what a vacation trip that was!!!), and all the guests had left, we were staying at their home for the night and thus remained behind for quieter family time together. Mark’s father had brought over a basket of freshly picked peaches from his home in GA. We ended up in the kitchen, sitting on stools across the cutting table from Mark’s lovely and so friendly wife, Alison, offering to join her in peeling those peaches.

What a special time of just chatting and working on the food preparation of fresh Georgia peaches with beautiful family friends!!

Back in time to 1956:
Wow, and that just brought back another unique childhood memory. After 8th grade I attended a special high school near my home where you lived at the school and they ran a farm that supplied the school with fresh food for the meals there. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we attended classes half-days and worked on the farm the other half day. On the day in this memory we were off the full day, trucked off to a distant peach orchard to pick baskets of peaches for the orchard owner, with some of that picking to come back with us to the school farm to be blanched, peeled (oh the bees and yellow jacket wasps were all over the sweet smelling outdoor processing area as we did our labors) and canned for later use. Two very special parts of that experience are still vivid in my mind these 6 decades later. First, we were not allowed to eat any of the beautiful peaches we were picking for that farmer that morning. The grove filled with bushel baskets of overflowing luscious fruit. At noon we were treated to farm fresh milk and meat and cheese sandwiches, and THEN, it was announced that we could go among those baskets and pick any peach we wanted to eat fresh from the tree for dessert!!! After a morning of ladder climbing and picking them, I can’t put words to how we wished we could have eaten them, and now to be allowed to choose the biggest and best of them – “WOW!!”

But that wasn’t the end. As I said we returned to the school farm (no, this wasn’t as you may be thinking some youth detention facility, I was studying to become a future religious brother in their community at their high school novitiate!), we prepared the fruit as described in the hot summer sunshine above. That night at the evening meal we were treated to fresh peach ice cream made with the product of our labors that morning! “Double WOW!!” (laughing out loud at this telling and enjoyment of that unique life experience).

Well, like I said, I don’t have time to read nor respond to your blog invitation (if you want to share this with your readers in any way, I have no issue with that by way of showing how your writing touches lives like mine and theirs) with so much to do here.

Mary, you are such an inspiration with your sharings that touch our hearts ‘out here’ in your world of readers. Thank you!!!

Jim Gleason
reflecting on wonderful life memories from so many years ago

Just came across this sharing written back in 2003. Don’t know if it was ever posted here, but just in case, here is my very emotional and insightful tribute to this gift from my father, also named “James Michael” . . .

My dad, James Michael Gleason, Sr.

As a young boy/man, I had grown up with a sense of “real men don’t cry” and prided myself on controlling my emotions, never showing any tears.  Even falling in love and getting married with a growing family didn’t change this stoicism.  It was the way of the strong man, or so I believed.

My father was a beautifully “simple” man in a very positive sense, simple in the sense of how he approached people and life in general.  “He never met a stranger…” would be a good description of his outgoing nature, also something he passed along to me. He interacted with anybody, always with spirited conversation and a sense of everybody was good and deserving of respect.  I can never remember his raising his voice in anger, toward me or anybody in our family of 5 growing children.  He always had time to share with everybody his many interests and they were engaging times when he did. 

When dad died of heart failure in 1969, I was the oldest male (26 years of age) in the family and supported my mother in making the funeral arrangements.  Even in this new experience my sense of pride in having no feelings continued.  There were no tears despite this loss.  Dad was 50 at the time of his death.  I had been at his hospital bedside just hours before he passed, feeding him and shaving him, seeing for the first time his vulnerability.  He had always been very self-sufficient, showing us all a healthy, vibrant life style of “can do” in everything he did.  He enjoyed the emotions of being truly human and wasn’t afraid to show that side of himself, although in retrospect, I can’t recall being hugged or told, “I love you.”  This was a generation that  didn’t express themselves in that way, but rather in many other ways.

On the morning of dad’s funeral, I was equally stoic, feeling a sense of manhood in being there for mom during such a trying moment without showing tears or emotions.  As the religious burial service drew to a close in the old church, I led the procession with mom on my arm, as we slowly preceded dad’s coffin down the aisle. 

It was at that moment that dad’s greatest gift was bestowed on his son (and I find my eyes tearing up even as I write these words, 33 years later..) as the moment welled up from deep inside, emotions of sorrow never acknowledged before.  Tears came to my eyes and for the first time in my life I accepted them without restraint, letting the drops run down my cheeks and fall to the church floor.  A very strong sense of pride came with those tears and I found myself holding my head up higher than I had ever done before, with mom on my arm, making no attempt to wipe away or hide those tears.

Clearly this was dad’s legacy to his son.  From that day on I have found great joy in both feeling and sharing my human emotions, yes, even the tears – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of uncontrolled laughter.  I have come to see the sharing of tears as one of the greatest gifts two humans can give each other.  Every time such emotions are now accepted in my life, I offer silent prayers of gratitude to a father who gave this gift at his own death. 

My life has never been the same since, and that is a very good thing.  Today as I celebrate my heart transplant’s 9th anniversary, I openly share tears of gratitude for my donor family and tears of joy for the life I now lead as a result of both their gift and that of my dad.  In dad’s case it was too early to have been given that same chance since heart transplants were not yet available.  In my case, dying with the same heart condition dad had, my mother pointed out the fact that in my case we had a choice, while in his we hadn’t.  Yes, that thought fills me with emotions too, every time I recall it.

To download (a PDF document) and read a full testimonial to my dad, go to

Recently TIME magazine solicited 30-second videos for their annual Optimism issue (who knew they did that each year?), and being the optimist that I have been all my life – a gift from my father I feel – naturally I created one around the message of being an organ donor which you can see below (scroll down the images of videos until you see me in the left side against a black background):

or click on this image . . .

We are so blessed to be able to share our stories by way of inspiring others to register as organ donors and showing the success of organ transplant, encouraging those facing transplant in their own lives.

Please join Pam and I for this Sunday sermon:

Just reading an interesting article today about happiness built on horizontal wealth vs. vertical wealth (you can read the full article here: ).

This part caught my attention and seems to relate to my own philosophy or value system:

“To understand it, let us go back 2000 years before Pratchett, to the great Roman philosopher Seneca — advisor to Emperor Nero and one of the wealthiest people in Rome.

“Here’s an excerpt from On the Happy Life (which I wouldn’t trade for several hundred copies of modern self-help books):

“Riches are slaves in the house of a wise man, but masters in that of a fool. […] If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his: for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.”

“Take away riches from a wise man, and he still has all that is his.

“And that, my friends, is the difference. While the horizontally wealthy own their riches, the vertically wealthy are owned by them. ”

??????????????And that has and continues to be true for my life. And I live a life filled with happiness with enough riches/wealth to support that, so what does that tell you?

Recently I received a Facebook question from a long time ago co-worker at Stewart’s Root Beer stand, JoAnn, daughter of the owner, a really great man, Joe Palko. She asked, “Jim, do you remember . . .”

To which I replied:

Do I remember? Absolutely, like it was just yesterday. Some of my happiest teen and young adult memories were over the many years of working there with you and your wonderful family, especially Joe who was like a father to us tray hops (and counter men). You roped off the front parking slots on my 1965 wedding day for the bridal party to make a grand entrance and stop for root beers that day! He even offered to give me some money if I needed it for my prom night (thanks to the tips working there, I thanked him for that fatherly offer but turned him down – never to forget that moment). So much of my career success came from the working there those many years, learning the lessons of customer service, how to speak with strangers like friends, service = generous tips a valuable lesson in life, hard work = success, and so much more.

“Oh those ice cold frosty mugs!”

I loved working for Joe (Palko, father to JoAnn & Kenny, wife to Ann). He treated all his workers with respect and strong customer service minded discipline. I loved wearing the required black bow tie, both behind the counter and as a tray-hop, most used every excuse to take that tie off, at least until Joe caught them and insisted it be put back on as part of ‘the uniform’. Joe was very, very precise and careful with his product and service. In the back area there was a huge stainless steel tank that was used to take the very concentrated root beer syrup (true Stewart’s). As he carefully added just the right amounts of sugar and syrup to that tank, each stainless steel pail of water was filled to a fine pencil mark, never over that mark (which would have multiplied the resultant root beer base and increased his profit), never under that mark, but precisely to his trained eye, before being poured gently into the huge vat of brown root beer syrup, perfect to keep the flavor of the foamy final root beer drink consistent and flavorful. His hamburger meet patties were never frozen, but delivered fresh and refrigerated until put onto the grill for each order (nothing made ahead in this business). One day Joe was taking a delivery of that meat and business was slow mid-afternoon. He so proudly showed off that burger to me, a tray-hop. He cooked that patty without any salt or pepper or anything else, just pure red beef, offered it to me on a fresh bun (another ‘most important’ part of the final product) to taste and savor under his very proud and watchful eye. I can hear his words even today, 60 years later, as he said, “Now that’s what a burger is meant to taste like! ” He was so right – it was plain and delicious, and served with family pride in each and every one that went out that window to be tray-ed out to the driver’s window of the waiting car’s load of customers, regulars who came back all the time driven by that attention to detail. And I remember . . .

Stewart’s as it looked back in Fords, NJ in early 1960’s

continued . . . those hot dog and hamburger buns, they were always ‘today fresh’, the real secret to their taste and success. Joe kept a paper notebook (remember that, JoAnn?) where he recorded at the end of every day how much roll was used and the weather of the day. Then he would look at tomorrow’s weather forecast, refer back to that date range the year before as recorded 365 days ago) and use his judgement to call in that night’s bread order for the following morning’s delivery. Talk about attention to detail! Oh, such great memories and what a wonderful place for teens (and into young adults with families to support) to work. Tony, the local thesbian who practiced his upcoming play lines each night between waiting on cars. Rich, the local policeman who worked there so many years as a side job. How I remember Kenny and I competing for cars when we agreed to side-line the assigned spaces to ‘take as much as you can service’ in a free for all style, trying to time our running trips to distant cars with orders that would be coming out to on the counter trays with foamy beer mugs to be delivered. And beware taking on too much such that pending trays would be sitting too long which got Joe’s attention and wrath to the assigned tray-hop. That running around during a busy lunch hour on a hot Summer day was challenging and so much fun back then when we had the legs for it and energy to engage in fun competition. And in bad weather or lull hours, there was the checker board game in progress that two of us would attend to in between taking and delivering orders! Work was hard, fun and very fulfilling money wise, with instant tip rewards IF we gave the best service. Oh, and be sure to count those glasses when you went to pick up the finished tray to be sure somebody hadn’t ‘forgotten’ some glass in the back seat, especially the colorful ‘baby mugs’ that were in demand. At night’s end, the many glasses were counted and any missing inventory had to be paid for out of our own pockets, something I don’t every recall having to pay up, either because the desired attention to detail was done with each paid order, or Joe didn’t enforce it, can’t recall which. It was a challenge to address the ‘missing mug’ issue with a customer without causing insult or conflict (and loosing a good tip). Of special attraction was the mug with that colorful Stewart’s logo on it.

And this is what a tray order and that famous mug looked like . . . and when I worked behind the counter (on day’s I wasn’t tray-hopping), we would be able to handle with one hand eight of those mugs filled with foam headed root beer

A heavy tray with those mugs, to hang on the driver’s car window which had to be just so high to catch the hanger part of the tray

and that mug which too often was not on the final paid for tray to be taken off the driver’s car window . . . especially if the mug was one with the orange logo decal on it – a prized possession if you could get away with it! The challenge included how to inquire “Is there another mug in there?” after the tip had been collected so as not to offend but to still get that mug back.

That prized collector’s item, a decal-ed genuine Stewart’s mug, a ‘steal’!

Ah yes, I enjoyed those great hard but very profitable days, working there with your wonderful family for many of my formative years, sometimes taking fun from my students who came in from my ‘day job’ of teaching high school math, itself an interesting challenge. Even then, I felt proud to be giving them a lesson ‘out of the classroom’ in the meaning of hard work and customer courtesy.

JoAnn, I remember fondly those teen years, especially running the lot with your brother, Kenny, on those hot Fords, NJ Summer days!

– Jim Gleason
February 2019

PS: Shortly after responding to JoAnn’s question, I learned that her brother and my friend, Kenny, had passed away just last year. My condolences to his wife, Trudy and family. He was a dear friend and will remain in my happy early days of memories even this half century later.

I’ve wanted to share this for months now, but finally getting a free moment to write this:

In my early teen years (about mid-fifties) I earned enough money to buy a stereo console model piece of furniture from Montgomery Ward.  I was in music record playing heaven with my first 33-1/3 stereo LP album, Theme from Exodus by Mantovani, the demo record the store had used to show off the sound of this record player.  That lead to my eventually buying at least (and I did count them) 1,000 vinyl albums over the years.

Record albums from the 50’s


As a teen, I had a reel of cable wire that allowed snaking the headphones out my second story window down to the backyard where on a hot summer night I would listen to its music laying on the plastic lounge outside, so much cooler than my bedroom.  I would stack the records on the changer to be able to play for long periods of musical enjoyment.

“Good morning!”

Using a timer that would start the record at 6am, it was morning wake up music preceded with a series of voices each saying louder and louder, “Good morning! (soft female voice), Go..ood morning! (lower voice), good morning (higher louder voice)…’ followed by a musical vocal using those same words set to music – my favorite way to wake up each morning to the sounds of the record dropping on to the turntable (allowing just enough time for the sound to warm up so I could hear those first words).  Later much of that music was copied to reel to reel tape to allow for much longer play time than those LP’s (‘LP=Long Playing’ at 20 minutes each side – really?), and then there were the cassette tapes which could be set to auto reverse and play continuously – sliding drawers of those in an ever growing library that replaced the vinyl that was still on the large lower shelves of that furniture, records now seldom used.

Cassettes had the new advantage of being playable in the car, extending the time I could enjoy that music while driving.

Music in my ’56 Chevy hardtop convertible

Many years passed and eventually CD’s took over – still playable now in the car CD player – and I continued to buy and play/enjoy music of all types from classical to pop and everything in between, eventually amassing another collection of 1,000+ CD’s that are still today in the closet.

just part of that CD collection

closet part of that CD collection

That music could be copied down to the hard drive of my computer, eventually with low priced huge terabyte storage to where I have downloaded all those 1,000+ CD’s onto the PC for easy selecting music of a particular theme, such as Music of the 50’s and DooWop music, etc.

Vinyl record converter to CD device

And then there was the record player that could copy a record album onto a CD and that then onto the computer’s musical library.  But music played on the PC’s speakers was limited to the office listening area where that PC was housed.  I wanted music throughout the home.


Pandora music on the TV Roku

On the TV’s RoKu device, you could play a large variety of web based on-line music via Pandora’s music service (for free) and that gave nice living room background music to the living room and dining areas, but I wanted more.  I even bought a small Bluetooth speaker that could relay music from the PC to another room, but that didn’t work due to the limited 20 foot range of the Bluetooth and walls blocking that electronic signal.


Finally, today . . .

Enter today’s world of Amazon’s Alexa and their Echo Dot devices and with Amazon Prime, free access to an almost unlimited selection of tunes (and yes, you could pay a monthly fee to extend that library to still more, but I didn’t want to pay a monthly fee so settled for the free service). 

Finally, music in every room, by voice command!

Now you no longer had to load a record or insert a cassette or CD, or use the computer’s mouse to select individual albums or songs, now you could say out loud, “Alexa, play the Theme from Exodus by Mantovani” and voila! The Alexa voice confirmed my voice selection and that music followed. 

But even more, now I could say “Alexa, play the Theme from Exodus by Mantovani everywhere!” and having defined the ‘everywhere group’ to include all five (yes, we now have one in each room!) rooms,  that original album from the 50’s in my teen room of Mantovani’s Theme from Exodus was now playing throughout our home, my ultimate goal, over 60 years later!  I’m in musical heaven, finally.  From morning shaving/showering time, Alexa responds to my voice to play music from the fifties.  In the kitchen ‘she’ responds to my requests while my hands are tied up cooking.  Even for a short time folding clothes in the bedroom, I can ask for DoWop music hands-free, followed by “Alexa STOP” when I’m finished and leaving the room. 

I love it, hands free, huge selection of music, playable throughout the home at any volume, and even “Alexa, skip that one!” when a song comes up in the playlist that isn’t to my liking!!

What more can the future hold?  Only time will tell, God willing to be alive to see that.

The Unwinding of the Miracle
A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After
by Julie Yip-Williams (due out Jan 2019)

“I loved it!” What an amazing real-life story, both sad and inspiring. The author writes from her soul, sharing in details only someone who has lived the early life tragedy, followed by accomplished life from nothing to cancer tragedy at a much too young life. As a reader you will be on a roller coaster reading from one chapter to the next, knowing too early on what the final chapter will be like while still holding out that your anticipation is wrong and a miracle – as in the title – will change that ending as a surprise. But no, the opening reveal prevails and we feel deep feelings as we travel along on this life journey which, as the author reminds us, will eventually lead to death, a natural part of life as we know it all too well.

The sadness isn’t in the guaranteed death we all must face, but rather what we deal with in advancing to that human fate. And there is where the depth of this insightful life story touches us as it unfolds with anticipated impact on the family that will be left behind, two young daughters and a loving soul-mate spouse. The author raises some important questions as she faces the medical trials with their disabling side effects that change the quality of life and impact family relationships. Do we make decisions based on our own needs, even if that means a shortened life span, or conversely, take into account those who are affected by our passing that will leave them without motherly support in their important growing years and life events? How do we feel about the loved husband also left behind, wishing out of love for their best, but conflicted by natural human emotions about his finding another to fill out that left behind family life. The author shares her honest innermost thoughts and feelings in a very insightful reading of those conflictual moments compounded by the unavoidable physical body pain and drug induced mental challenges, especially as they relate to the high hopes and disappointments that come with that ‘giving it our all’ to preserve life for as long as we can.

I’m not giving anything away in sharing her eventual death, but in one final chapter written by her husband AFTER that death, we gain still more connection and insight into her and their amazing journey of life, however too short, but lived to its fullest despite early obstacles. And in that telling lies the inspiration of lives we all must face, lives of challenge and opportunity.

I strongly recommend this reading to anyone facing life’s daily journey (especially – but not only – if yours involves cancer, either yours or a loved one’s), and that’s each and every one of us. I eventually found myself sitting up reading late into the early morning hours for the final chapters, unable to put this awesome book down as those inevitable final days unfold.

With my renewed commitment to share via this blog regularly now, I thought a series on some general topics might be of interest.  Initial series topics would include things like . . .

  • Retirement Reflections
  • Hobby Happiness
  • Cookie Monster treats
  • Reflective Readings

. . . as some initial areas to write about that might be of interest to followers of this blog.

My granddaughter, Gail and I, having a great “cookie monster” day so many years ago (Gail is in her 2nd year of college now!)

Stay tuned to see if this renewed interest becomes the priority I currently feel for sharing amidst a busy life of many other ‘high priorities’ as I enjoy this fulfilled life as I live through my ‘eight decade’ as one doctor recently phrased it to my shock and surprise.  He was using that in the context of a compliment, saying “Mr. Gleason, you are an amazing patient, doing so well now in your eighth decade (as he was finishing an extensive month-long (expensive) series of internal testing for pancreatic cancer without finding any despite symptoms, a very good outcome I thought!)  My reaction was, “Hey, I’m not in my eighties yet!” only to step back and realize that when we are in our seventies, that indeed is our ‘eighth decade’ of life and in that realization, felt the blessing of his remark.  Each day I celebrate, as any good ‘Cookie Monster’ would, living a life extension through my 1994 heart transplant granted by the generous donation of a heart no longer supporting life in that donor, Roberto Quebas of Brooklyn, NY.

PS: In that doctor’s visit, the nurse who came out into the waiting area to find a Mr. Gleason to take back for his appointment was confused when I arose in response to her announcement, saying as we went into the clinic rooms, “Based on my file records of  age and conditions (many), I was expecting someone looking much older!”  Wow, she had made my day and so the doctor’s comments were just the icing on this cookie monster’s cookies today.

May your own life be filled with iced cookies today and every day.  As cookie monsters, we expect good things of life and in so looking for them, see them all around us and celebrate each with storytelling as in this day’s blog here.