Requiem for my favorite curmudgeon - Albuquerque Journal

Requiem for my favorite curmudgeon

His last message to me was perplexing.

“Thanks. Winding down. May call you tomorrow”

It was an odd comment in many ways for a man I have referred to in my columns as “my favorite curmudgeon.” For one, it came March 2 as a private message on Facebook, a rarity for Christopher Matthew Timm, who didn’t shy away from public discourse.

For another, I had no idea what he was thanking me for or what he was winding down from. It was as if his message was plopped in the middle of a conversation I didn’t know we were having.

And he was meticulous about grammar and punctuation, so it was unusual for him to leave off the period at the end of his message.

Perhaps he was not ready for the finality of a period.

He never called. I never heard from him again. To my great regret, I never asked him whether everything was OK.

It wasn’t.

Indiana-born Christopher Matthew Timm remained a loyal Purdue University alumnus long after he moved to Albuquerque. He founded the New Mexico chapter of the Purdue Booster Club. Timm, 80, died March 20 after a lengthy illness. (Courtesy of Sherry Keeney-Timm)

Timm died March 20, his odd message written the day he entered hospice at home after a lengthy heart-related illness. What he had been winding down from was his life. He was 80.

Timm – Big Chris, as he signed his emails – leaves behind his wife, Sherry Keeney-Timm, eight children, 14 grandchildren and countless people who knew him from the many interests he was involved in over his life.

Friends are invited to his memorial service at 3 p.m. April 9 at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, 1100 Louisiana SE.

Timm’s death is another reminder of the ephemeral nature of life and the need to never take that life or our friendships for granted.

I considered Timm a friend, though we never met in person. He was a faithful reader, his first email to me sent in November 2009, when I had been an UpFront columnist for little more than a year.

Most times he would opine on the news on the day, my columns, the world at large. He was a stickler for concise writing, once admonishing me for my use of the term “domestic violence advocates.”

“Considering the definition of advocate, somehow I don’t think you really meant to cite persons in favor of or supporting domestic violence,” he wrote. “Isn’t a good command of the English language essential for journalists?”

He was right, of course.

Timm had strong views on many things, and we disagreed often – on juvenile justice, the proposed New Mexico United soccer stadium, the number of sporting events during the winter Olympics, Hemingway, Super Bowl halftime shows (he preferred marching bands), the overuse of the F word, Gabby Petito coverage and what he referred to as the “media’s pandering to morbid curiosity.”

But we agreed on many things – the erratic dangerousness of the previous administration, too many guns in the hands of the wrong people, improved assistance for veterans and homeless folks, masking and vaccinating, civility.

“A big part of our problem with being able to listen, learn and work together is not having done so on a national scale for over 50 years,” he wrote. “Younger generations haven’t had national positive goals to work on for so long they’ve forgotten how.”

The Indiana native was an Army veteran and a civil engineer, his long career including work for the state Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Water Quality Administration, the World Health Organization and PECOS Management Services, founded by his wife.

His last Facebook post read: “As long as we keep adding population, the way we are proceeding, we will keep drilling, mining, building, manufacturing. What we call nature – forests, jungles, wild animals, will shrink away! Am I too pessimistic?”

He often was.

Last December, my column on Christmas giving began with his disparaging of my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which reminds us of how our lives touch other lives.

Christopher Matthew Timm volunteered as a crossing guard at two Albuquerque schools, earning the name Mr. Hulk because of the oversized green Hulk hands he wore. The hands were a gift from his grandson. (Courtesy of Sherry Keeney-Timm)

“Actually, how we touch each others’ lives is more depressing than satisfying these days,” he said. “Addictions, homelessness, crime, school and all other shootings and murder, anti-vaxxers, anti-abortion zealots, etc. National news hour equals 55 minutes of bad news and five of good.”

In reality, he was a great example of how our lives touch other lives. Even after retirement, a heart attack in 2010 and a debilitating bout of COVID-19 in 2020, Timm volunteered with the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Veterans Memorial where he started a guest lecture series and monthly swing dances.

He helped organize a route for the Run for the Wall, an annual event when thousands of motorcyclists honor veterans by riding across the country to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

He founded the New Mexico booster club for his beloved alma mater, Purdue University.

He volunteered as a reading and math tutor and he served as a crossing guard at two elementary schools, earning the nickname Mr. Hulk because of his hulking stature and the massive green Hulk hands he wore, a gift from a grandson.

His kindness was well-known to his neighbors, friends at senior centers and to me. In 2016 as the Dog Head Fire forced many to evacuate their East Mountain homes and threatened to push us out as well, Timm offered us the use of his guest home in northern New Mexico.

It was an amazing offer that we fortunately did not need to accept, but even now I remain in awe of his generosity.

No matter how heated our discourses became, Timm never resorted to ad hominem attacks, unlike most of my regular curmudgeons and critics.

“Every action we take today affects all of our tomorrows. Be kind,” he wrote.

Keener-Timm, his wife, gave me the news of his passing.

“I wanted to let you know he passed away today,” she wrote. “I know he loved your banter and conversations. He will always be your favorite curmudgeon. … Thank you for being his friend.”

I wish I had thanked him more for being mine.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, jkrueger@abqjournal.com.

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