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Jan and Peter in a shot taken by Stan Kirsch!

Jan and Stan

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

By Jan Lopreste

My second convention experience took place on the Royal Caribbean Cruise ship Soverign of the Seas, for the 1st Annual Highlander Clan Convention at Sea. It was my first trip away from my son for an event and I was pumped!
Most of my time was spent with friends, or assisting the event staff as a volunteer. I did have a great encounter with Mr. Jim Byrnes and it went like this...............

I was soon to become aware that I was recognizable as someone
"connected." One of the other fans on the ship came to me to ask a favor. She had a friend back home who was dying of cancer, and all this friend wanted was an autographed picture of Jim Byrnes. This lady asked if I would obtain that for her. I said I would be happy to, but that I was certain that Jim would be happy to interact directly with her....she didn't need a go-between! She
said that she was far too shy, gave me the picture and her cabin number and thanked me for handling it!

I mentioned the exchange to Jim a bit later, just before he took the
stage for one of his kickin' shows, and he said to bring it to him sometime during the weekend and he would be happy to sign it. We both forgot about it for a time. It was not until *very* late that night ~ approximately 2am, when I was up on deck with some of the Staff relaxing ~ that the need was brought to my attention again.

Jim called to me from the group where he was sitting, using my uncle's favorite nickname of "Janny" to catch my attention. He motioned me over and asked if I had that picture with me. When told that it was not ON me, he asked me to please go and get it. He was not able to get it out of his mind and wanted to take care of it right there and then. When I fetched it and came back to him just awhile later, Jim held out his hand to me and pulled me down to sit beside him. He did not release my hand right away. He asked me to explain the situation to him again, and just thought about it for a minute.

"That's what she asked for? Just a signed picture of me?" He was
dumbfounded. I said that this was, apparently, something that would make her very happy. He squeezed my hand and said he was honored, but that he had no idea what to write. I suggested that he simply write what was in his heart, as he did with his music.....the same music that had also touched this woman's soul. After he signed the picture, he looked at me with what I swear
were tear-filled eyes (but it was hard to tell in the moonlight and dim lighting of the ship's deck) and he thanked me for making this happen for her. It was then that I realized what a sweet and caring man Jim Byrnes really is. "Yeah, yeah, yeah" <g> he likes to play at being a real curmudgeon, and says that he just "doesn't get it" about why folks love him so much, but *this* is why. He is a real man, and he feels with real emotions and real heart. I feel honored to call this man friend.

Look for lots more Jim Byrnes stories to come, and one of these days I will tell y'all about how my title of "Mountain Mama wif da GOOD Hillbilly Hugs" came into being! ;-) Next time? My cruise encounter with Peter Wingfield.....and a lump of coal. <g>


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