Jim Foley Necklace

A Birthday Tribute for Jim

by Lyn Foley on January 31, 2010

Jim Foley Necklace

Silver Flowers and Pearl Necklace by Jim Foley

My husband, partner, jeweler, and all together exceptional person, Jim Foley, made the above necklace last week. Isn’t it beautiful? Yes!! (Of course it sold almost before it was finished).

I’m sharing the picture with you in order to acknowledge Jim on his birthday tomorrow, February 1st. (yes, our birthdays are close together, I’m three years older.) Jim has been a metalsmith since college, when he apprenticed to a German Goldsmith. Jim learned jewelry making from Horst the old fashioned way, starting with how to clean the shop, and gradually learning jewelry techniques, from designing, metal working, soldering, fabricating, wax modeling, lost wax casting, stone setting, and more.

Jim was a natural, and even his first pieces were original, beautiful, and well made. I know, because I met him right around that time, and bought a ring from him. We’ve been together 36 years now. Many, many pieces of exquisite, award winning jewelry have sprung from his fertile imagination and out through his skilled hands.

In 1990, at age 42, Jim was diagnosed with “Early Onset” Parkinson’s Disease – a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder, with no known cure. The three cardinal symptoms for P.D. are: rigidity or slowness of movement, tremor and postural instability or imbalance. In other words, Jim sometimes could barely move, sometimes went rigid or “froze” in place, sometimes shook uncontrollably, or sometimes fell over unexpectedly. Among other things, P.D. stole Jim’s ability to make jewelry from him. Gemstones fell out of fingers that couldn’t close correctly, the torch shook in an arm that couldn’t quit shaking, delicate wax used to make models couldn’t be guided into place.

We gave up our jewelry store, and set off to sail around the world instead. A crazy thing to do (read the first chapter of our book here). Medicines helped some of the symptoms, didn’t do anything for others. Jim made lemonade out of the lemons life had dealt him. He volunteered in programs searching for a P.D. cure. We went on with life, completed our circumnavigation. Each year we checked in with Jim’s neurologist, always hoping for any new medicine or treatment that would help Jim as the awful disease continued its march through our lives.

In 2001 one of the experimental treatments helped Jim enormously. Many of his symptoms were reversed – he could pick up small objects again, like pennies. He could button buttons again, zip zippers. So in 2002 when we moved back to land, he decided to try making jewelry once more. Some days he still shook too much to hold a torch, or a gemstone. His hands didn’t have the control to guide the wax as before – but still, he persevered. Techniques that took him minutes before P.D. took him many attempts, sometimes hours, to accomplish. He couldn’t use gold as he did before – his P.D. afflicted hands burned the gold up too quickly. So he turned to silver, and once again beautiful jewelry appeared.

Jim never gives up. He rarely complains, even when he has fallen down for the umpteenth time in a day, victim to the P.D. loss of balance that throws him unexpectedly to the floor. He puts his torch down, and waits patiently until a tremor passes and he can solder again. Just the effort of sitting sometimes overwhelms him, and he naps until his strength, zapped by P.D. returns.

Jim, in spite of P.D. is a master player of life, playing full out, with joy and love. And look at this latest beautiful nceklace he created in January. Jim, I salute you, and wish you a very happy birthday. I love you, and thank you for being in my life.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy February 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Aw, another Happy Belated Birthday! Lyn, your husband Jim seems to be such an extraordinary man. I hope his birthday was wonderful. Jim’s art is out of this world…WOW, this piece is out of this world. I don’t think I could have ever parted with it if I were him! :-)

Lyn Foley February 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Thank you Cindy – He did have a great birthday, and I’ll pass along the compliments since he is not on the Internet much

Eric Savage October 31, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Lyn and Jim –

I came across this post from a while back, and loved hearing about how you are doing. This is a gorgeous piece of jewelry, and it reminds me of the beautiful work that Jim did for us. I miss our swordfish steaks and chardonnay dinners from many years ago.

I am truly inspired by your story, and wish you many more adventures. The sailing you guys did always sounded wonderful. That has become one of my passions, too, though only a week or so at a time.

Be well.

Bruce Woodruff January 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

It’s about Jim’s birthday again. Sorry to hear about the PD but sounds like Jim is handeling it as well as can be expected. The very first look at that beautiful neckless and I knew it was diamond Jim! I still love you two. Got any risqque greeting cards for sale.

Love Bruce

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