JAMES “JIMMY” RODOLFOS – of Woburn, Wednesday, May 30th, beloved husband of Fay E. (White)Rodolfos. Loving brother of Theresa Andres of Chelmsford. Devoted uncle of many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephew and great great nieces and nephews, along with his very dear cousins. Relatives and friends are invited to calling hours at the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home, 263 Main Street, Woburn on Saturday, June 2nd from 1 to 4 p.m. Funeral Service and Interment are private. At the request Jimmy’s family please omit flowers. Donations may be made in Jimmy’s memory to the Woburn High School Scholarship Fund, PO Box 202, Woburn, MA 01801.
James “Jimmy” Rodolfos of Woburn, an extraordinarily gifted artist who had been paralyzed from the neck down since the age of sixteen, passed away on Thursday, May 31st at Kindred Hospital in Peabody, surrounded by his family and closest friend. The beloved husband of Fay (White ) Rodolfos for the past fifty years, he was seventy years of age.
Born and raised in Woburn, he was the son of the late Anthony and Elizabeth (Poulizzi) Rodolfos . As a youngster he lived in the Hammond Square section of the city and attended the Hansen School, Jr. High and then Woburn High School.
Writer Marie Coady interviewed Jimmy and his wife Fay ten years ago and wrote the following: “On a hot day in July 1953, Jimmy Rodolfos headed down to Horn Pond to cool off. The soon-to-be seventeen year-old dove from the platform at the old Horn Pond Ice Company landing (no longer there) at the end of Beacon Street and took an invigorating swim. He then headed off to work at Jerry’s Luncheonette on Main Street. Later that evening, Jimmy hitched up with a group of friends, went back to the same spot and once again dove from the platform along with his friends. But this time Jimmy’s dive into the cool waters of Horn Pond changed his life forever. Jimmy said, ‘We were in the same spot as I’d been that morning – near the ice house section off Beacon Street – and I just stripped off my things and dove back in at about the same spot as earlier in the day. But this time I hit bottom and knew right away something was very wrong.’ It was obvious to friends that Jimmy was in trouble, and they rushed to get help. Police arrived and transported him to Choate Hospital on Warren Avenue where New Horizons is now. “ I spent a few nights at the Choate, but there was very little they could do for me. I had broken three vertebrae in my neck and everything from there down was paralyzed. In 1953, the technology was not the same as it is today. There was very little they could do for me”.
Jimmy Rodolfos went from being a high school track star to a paraplegic in one fleeting tick of the clock. He said, “I’ve spent my whole life in Woburn. Before I moved to Eastern Avenue, I lived on Hovey Street. There’s a parking lot there now where my house was back then. I attended the Hansen School, which was right across the street and was involved in YMCA activities at the old” Y” where the antique store is now. I played basketball for the Y, and ran track and cross country for Woburn High and had just been elected class president at the end of my junior year. I was supposed to take office in my senior year, but I never got to go back to school. After the accident, I continued to be interested in Woburn High School sports. I’ve been to every football game since I was let out of the hospital. I was even given the game ball on two occasions, once in 1954 and again in 1973. I still have them in a display case. They mean a lot to me”.
After a six month stay at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Jimmy was transferred to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Facility in Canton where he not only furthered his education but also met the woman with whom he was destined to spend rest of his life.
“I spent two and a half years at Massachusetts Rehabilitation Facility in Canton. I met my wife Fay there. She had gotten polio about two weeks before my accident and came to Canton in August 1954. Fay’s from the Salem-Beverly area”.
Fay, who is also wheelchair bound, is never further away than a shout from Jimmy. She is more mobile than Jimmy, in fact, she is Jimmy’s arms and legs, does all the driving and helps Jimmy with many of the tasks he can’t perform on his own.
“I graduated from Canton in 1955,’ Jimmy continued, ‘stayed another year and returned home in 1956. Fay and I got married in 1957”. Jimmy is also self-sufficient, supporting himself by the sale of his art. “I was always interested in art. Before the accident, I did a lot of poster work for the YMCA and Woburn High activities. As part of my occupational therapy I saw other handicapped people painting with a brush in their mouth, so I thought I’d try it. I had some art lessons through the Canton school, more art lessons at home arranged by the Mass. Rehab Commission and even some private tutoring. I paint mostly in oils. Since August 1962, I’ve been the first American to become a member of the International Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. Their headquarters are in Liechtenstein. They arrange exhibitions all over the world. In many countries, they have a publishing office. What they do is reproduce our paintings on greeting cards that are sold all over the world. There are many artists in the group, and you never know which paintings will be chosen to be reproduced. I sent one out as a possible design to be used for gift wrap, and it was picked up as a design for a Christmas card and just published in Singapore. I did the painting several years ago, and it was just chosen. Since becoming a member of the Association, I have given lectures and demonstrations on how I paint. I was also one of the founding members of the Woburn Guild of Artists”.
Jimmy’s paintings have been on exhibit in Athens, Italy, Spain and Austria, and he and Fay have attended some of the exhibitions in Canada and the United States. His favorite subjects were landscapes at different times of the year, seascapes and still life. He mainly used oil colors for his paintings, and enjoyed great success with his works. The media also took notice of him and issued regular reports about him.
Jimmy was an ardent Woburn High football fan. He appealed to the Woburn Chat during the first game he ever missed. It began when Woburn’s number one fan sent out a plea for help. It seems that after more than 50 years of being on the sidelines at every Woburn football game, he found he didn’t have any way of getting to the game. Jimmy hadn’t missed a game since he was released from the hospital and was such a familiar figure on the sidelines that he had been the recipient of the game ball on two occasions. Those game balls meant the world to Jimmy and that’s why he sent out a call to the Chat for “football reports.” He was kept up to date on the missed games by his many friends on the Chat.
Kind, generous, wonderful sense of humor, devoted, loving, and a most incredibly courageous man are the words that many of his family and friends have used to describe Jimmy. He received many wonderful gifts along his journey and his two incredibly greatest gifts where that of his wife Fay, with whom he shared close to fifty years and his astonishing artistic abilities that he has shared with us all.
In addition to his wife Fay, he is survived by his sister, Theresa Andres of Chelmsford, many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephew and great great nieces and nephews, along with his very dear cousins.
Relatives and friends are invited to calling hours at the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home, 263 Main Street, Woburn on Saturday, June 2nd from 1 to 4 p.m. Funeral Service and Interment are private.
At the request Jimmy’s family please omit flowers. Donations may be made in Jimmy’s memory to the Woburn High School Scholarship Fund, PO Box 202, Woburn, MA 01801.