The oldest of six boys, Jim O'Rourke grew up on an Iowa farm. At age 22, a tragic work accident left him a quadriplegic. Because his parents, Leo and Theresa, had instilled strong family principles based on their Catholic faith, Jim's family pulled together for him. "We ranged in age from 6 to 18 but we all took part in caring for Jim," said Joe O'Rourke, a St. Ambrose graduate of the Class of 1972. "We knew what was right and we all knew what work was — you do what you have to do."
So Jim's five siblings — John, Joe, Jerry, Jeff and Jay — cared for their brother. And eventually, Jim helped care for them. "He gave back to us," said Joe. "Jim brought us closer together as a family."
Jim helped start O'Rourke Brothers Distributing (now O'Rourke Sales Co.) two years after the accident. Eventually, all the brothers had a hand in the business, which grew from farming, to buying and selling CB radios, to the distribution of electronic products. The company now has branches in six states.
"Jim was a fantastic salesman and memorized entire catalogs," said Joe. "He set the standard for hard work."
"Jim gave so much to us. He was very good at gathering family together and when he moved into his own home it became the 'go-to' place for family occasions."
In 2009, the brother described as a hero and friend passed away, surrounded by friends and family. When a call came from St. Ambrose asking if the O'Rourke family might give their support to a new assistive technology showcase house, it seemed a fitting tribute to Jim.
"We saw the value of what St. Ambrose's OT program was doing and we knew how much Jim had benefitted from assistive technology," said Joe, who attended the October 2011 dedication of Jim's Place with members of his family, including the matriarch, Theresa. "It was one of those things; it was the right thing to do."