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The 'Jim' of Jim's Place

December 2011 | by Jane Kettering


Jim O'Rourke was the oldest of six boys, growing 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 ‘72. "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 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 their beloved brother 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. It was one of those things; it was the right thing to do."

At the dedication for Jim's Place, the O'Rourke matriarch, "Mother Theresa," toured the home with Joe close by her side. It was a bittersweet experience for the O'Rourke family (pictured above right) as they honored the memory of their beloved Jim.

"I believe God puts people in your life at the right time," said Joe. "Jim's Place was meant to be."

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