When James “Jim” Dare makes the rounds today to say goodbye to work friends, he will finish a career and continue a life set in motion by a broken kneecap while playing dorm football during his first quarter at Ohio State University.
“I got tackled on the sidewalk and then had to have an operation on my knee,” Dare said Monday in his old now-empty office. “At the time, I didn’t have insurance so most of the money that I had went towards that.
“So when I got through that quarter, I enlisted in the Navy. I thought I’ll go there and then I won’t have to pay for my college when I get out.”
That decision led him to about three years as a radioman on a nuclear submarine. He also met his wife, Paula, who worked as a court reporter in Connecticut. That interest in courts led Dare to a degree from Wright State University. In 1984, on his fourth try, he was hired as a probation officer.
Countless probation clients, probation officers, attorneys, judges, county officials and others have honored the 1973 West Carrollton High School graduate for his 34 years of service to Montgomery County courts.
Dare, 62, worked mostly in probation but spent the past five years as the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court administrator who stewarded a staff of 186.
“The world is full of people who look for reasons not to do something,” reads a letter from former Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Jack Meagher, who hired Dare in 1993 as the director of adult probation. “Jim never did that. He always offered solutions. Our conversations almost always ended with Jim assure me that, ‘I will take care of that, Sir.’ Jim, you have inspired me and everyone who ever worked for the court.”
Dare is credited for many court accreditations and helping form specialty courts for drug offenders, veterans and women, among others.
A release said Dare promoted the use of technology such as electronically recorded proceedings, video link appearances, electronic filing and other innovations.
Ironic, perhaps, because Dare doesn’t have a cell phone.
“What my whole career has been about is being available to people,” said Dare,who had an easily accessible, first-floor office open to police officers, offenders, victims or others. “I try to make myself available to each and every one of them.”
In retirement, Dare plans to continue his love of gardening. He still will work for the American Correctional Association by traveling to do audits for probation and parole, electric monitoring and community based correction facilities.
Dare plans to travel more to visit his wife’s family in Florida and Connecticut, enjoy time with his wife, two children and nine grandchildren aged 4 to 18. He also wants to take some ocean cruises — on the water, not under the surface when he could only tell nighttime by “rig for red” lights.
Besides free meals and gardening gift certificates, Dare received a plaque from Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor. “I’ve had a great time working here,” Dare said. “People go, ‘How do you work with all these different people?’ But that’s what a court is about.”
His makeshift office on Monday included containers of water for the plants he put into planters outside the courthouse near artwork which required the approval of 26 elected officials.
A card from a local judge — one of 37 Dare worked with — that the measure of a man’s work is his humanity: “In that regard, Jim Dare, you have earned the highest marks possible and this county has lost a true beacon of light — may you shine forever!”