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Leading Off: Jim Gordon's laughter won't soon be forgotten in Lincoln theater
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Leading Off: Jim Gordon's laughter won't soon be forgotten in Lincoln theater

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Award Recipient Jim Gordon with TADA Artistic Director Robert D. Rook

Original TADA board president and award recipient Jim Gordon (left) with TADA artistic director Robert D. Rook in 2017.

I never officially met Jim Gordon, but after reading his obituary -- a witty and well-written piece that made me wish I could write like that -- I'm certain that our paths did cross.

He was that guy, seemingly right behind me at every TADA Theatre event I attended, who laughed harder than anyone -- that guy who too many people quickly pass off as THAT GUY.

And after you realized his laughter is genuine, you began to understand he is that guy we all long to be.

Whatever he did was done with the confidence of a 4-year-old in a Batman costume. He danced as if there was no one watching, loved unabashedly and laughed without apology because he was genuinely tickled -- and more importantly, happy.

There was nothing artificial about his zest for life. It was authentic. And, as a result, everyone who met him thought he was the best.

Not officially meeting him was my loss.

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Gordon died last week, three days short of his 75th birthday, and the tributes began pouring in from all over. He was a lawyer, philanthropist and, with the exception of those few years spent in Vietnam defending America's honor, a fixture in Lincoln.

A college education finally set in on the second try -- after returning from the war with a badge for taking part in 30 combat missions, a Purple Heart and a need to walk with a cane for the remainder of his life -- and he parlayed it into a career in law.

The walking stick, we're told, might have been his third most recognizable trait, right behind his overgrown mustache and that amazing laugh, which showed his appreciation for life.

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"We shared a lot of laughs over lunch," said Bob Rook, who co-founded TADA Productions 21 years ago along with Gordon. "I was not only lucky to have him to work alongside me for many years, but also to be able to call him one of my best friends.”

TADA wasn't the only recipient of Gordon's time or generosity. He also served as national president and chair for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. He was a proponent for Nebraskans for Public TV, the Lincoln Children's Zoo, and Leadership Lincoln and active in the Foster Care Review Board and Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, among many others.

But TADA had a special place in his heart. As TADA grew, so did his involvement, first as its legal counsel, then as a member of the advisory board. Gordon helped negotiate the licensing deals of many of TADA’s most important productions and collaborations.

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He was also instrumental in overseeing the transition into a nonprofit operating theater company and served as president of the board of directors.

Rook said he was also “hands on” when it came to the building of the new theater in the Historic Haymarket. His duties included scrubbing the old paint off the walls, which he did while wearing rainbow suspenders.

There was never a job he considered beneath him when it came to TADA, Rook recalled.

"There would be no TADA Theatre without Jim," Rook said. "He was there every time I needed him.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7391 or

On Twitter @psangimino


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