James Joseph Corbett
December 14, 1931 ~ August 24, 2021 (age 89)
James J. Corbett – also known as Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo, Bimbo, Jimmy Longstockings, Pop-Pop and Pops – left this exquisite Earth for his next cosmic adventure on August 24th, 2021 at the age of 89. Jim had been living in Palm Springs California, fulfilling his life dream of playing golf.
Born in the Mount Lebanon neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jim was the fourth of seven children. He was initially named David, however his parents decided to choose James. He was born to Marie Elizabeth McGillick and Patrick Leo Corbett – both natives of Pittsburgh. His paternal grandparents immigrated from counties Galway and Mayo, Ireland and his maternal grandparents were first generation American, of Irish heritage.
Jim attended St. Bernard Elementary School, St. Justin’s High School, and St. Vincent’s College. He graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and became a Certified Air Traffic Control Specialist with the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) in Los Angeles. He went on to receive his single-engine airplane pilot license from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Civil Aeronautics Administration. Jim honourably served in the United States Army during the Korean War and received National Defense, United Nations, and Korean Service medals of recognition.
During his childhood years, Jim loved playing baseball at the neighborhood ball field. Jim’s tendency to daydream earned him the endearing nickname “Bimbo” from his brothers. Growing up, he became the treasured family jester, the one who could deflate the tension and have everyone in stitches in just about any situation. Faithful to his Irish storytelling heritage, he mastered the use of pregnant pauses and biting irony.
In the mid-1950s, Jim and his brother Joe drove from Pittsburgh to Santa Monica, CA, where four of the Corbett Aunts and his cousin, John, were living. Jim and Joe rented an apartment on Venice Beach and had a chance encounter with Hollywood when the film Where the Boys Are was shot on the sand just outside their front door. The Corbett Aunts introduced Jim to golf, and he was never the same.
After he started working for the FAA, Jim became acutely aware of a beautiful woman named Patricia. She was a secretary who he occasionally saw getting coffee in the office cafeteria. Jim secretly admired her for years. He finally mustered up the courage to ask a colleague to invite Patricia to a party. Eight years after the party, Jim and ‘Patty’ were on their honeymoon.
Patricia was the oldest of thirteen. Jim adored her 13 siblings and her mother, Sarah. Patricia’s brothers and sisters loved Jim too because he always brought two giant tubs of ice-cream when he dropped by for a visit. Jim and Pat went on to have three children of their own: Elizabeth, Colleen and Carolyn.
‘Lizzy,’ ‘Col’ and ‘Ca’ relished their childhood years with their Pops, Jim. He made every Sunday a spectacular family fun day: soaking pancakes with syrup at the Sambo’s diner; crashing under the waves at Malibu Beach; riding the rusted-out roller coaster at the local fair ground; gobbling down ice-cream cones; searching for tiny animal bones under the old oak tree where the giant owl lived; site-seeing for hours on end – and, on special occasions, visiting the Santa Monica Corbetts – where big bowls of candy sat on every counter and coffee table.
In 1978, Jim drove cross country again. This time from Los Angeles to Edgewater, NJ – a small fisherman’s town right across the Hudson River from New York City. Jim had discovered Edgewater while seeking out a new home for Pat and the girls. Patricia was pursuing a career in opera and wanted to study and work in Manhattan. Her ensuing singing career gave Jim the great pleasure of adventuring through the US, Europe, Alaska and South America. Jim made life-long friends in Edgewater, running for Town Council with his buddy Mike Bartos, singing in the Church Choir, and hitting golf balls down at the ball field.
Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit – Jim paved his own professional path. After leaving the FAA, he became an insurance broker and when the family moved to Edgewater, he opened his own auto radiator business in Lodi, New Jersey. Jim called his business ‘Mr. Cool’s Radiator Shop.’
The great game of golf, however, was Jim’s lifelong passion and true vocation. When Jim retired at 70, he became a Ranger at the nearby Bergen County golf course in Rockleigh, NJ. He forged life-long bonds with the other course rangers and staff, especially Leo, who was like a son to Jim. The Rockleigh gang busted each other’s chops with awe-inspiring irreverence.
Jim played in multiple Bergen County golf tournaments, taking home myriad trophies and awards. When his grandchildren would visit him at the golf course, Jim would zip them around in his golf cart, thrilled to show them the wild animals that wandered out of the woods as soon as the sun began to set.
In 2018, at the age of 86, Jim’s daughter Carolyn and son-in-law Craig helped him fulfil his life dream: to go back to California, get a little place, and hit balls on the glorious green. He drove solo from New Jersey to California, making it to Palm Springs in eight days flat.
Jim spent the last few years of his life in the desert. He loved driving around in his new Corolla, blasting USC’s classical radio station, and admiring the iconic Mid-Century architecture and Palm Springs’ legendary history.
He spent his days at the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course working tirelessly on his form. Jim conceived a signature golf grip and swing he was eager to reveal and launch. He would practice his golf swing every day for several hours at a time, most recently in the 125-degree summer temperatures of Palm Springs. Golf was Jim’s form of meditation – his own way of diving deep into the mysteries of the cosmos – and his own soul. His mornings were spent in his garden surrounded by his beloved hummingbirds and butterflies. Jim became fascinated with the hummingbirds, perhaps because of his study and love of aeronautics.
Easy going, funny, and sidesplittingly dead-pan, Jim savored the human comedy. His curiosity for all things – known and unknown – kept him young at heart. Jim loved philosophy, music, art, religion, politics and history, endlessly fascinated by the people, events and world around him. He celebrated the human experience and embraced all people without judgment. He took care not to infringe on others, call attention to himself or make a fuss. He was so unassuming you could forget he was in the room until he cracked a joke, most likely a quirky wordplay.
When asked by his filmmaker daughter Carolyn what the key to life was – he pondered the question carefully and replied with one word: Enthusios.
One of Jim’s favorite passages is from Joseph Campbell:
“What is it we are questing for? It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself. There is nothing you can do that's more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way you will find, live, become a realization of your own personal myth.”
Our Dad, Gentleman Jim. The biggest heart. What a kind and generous soul. Wherever he went he exuded love and curiosity. He made those around him either smile or chuckle. Jim made your day by just being quietly present. By just – being there. What a treat to have known him.
Jim will be deeply missed by all who knew him, especially his three girls. The good Jim did in this world and the warm feelings he engendered will never die. To know him was, truly, to love him.
We love you so, Pops. We feel you close.
Loving son of the late Patrick Leo and Marie Elizabeth (McGillick) Corbett; faithful brother of Frank P., Thomas X., Joseph M., Edward J. Corbett, the late Rev. John B. Corbett and the late Margaret Ann "Maggie" Daley; devoted husband for 37 years of Patricia L. Corbett; beloved father of Elizabeth, Carolyn (Craig), and Colleen; cherished grandfather of Charlotte, Roxanne, Seamus and Rian; also survived by his loving cousin, John F. Brancheau and many more beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.
Friends will be welcomed in celebration at St. Bernard Church, 311 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon for the Funeral Mass on Saturday, October 30th at 11:30am. Interment will follow in Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:
Cancer Coalition: https://donate.coloncancercoalition.org/memorials/JimCorbett
Mother Maria in honor of Jim Corbett
Holy Annunciation Monastery
Byzantine Catholic Nuns
403 West County Road
Sugarloaf, PA 18249