17 Oct 2020

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Obituary: Jim Zinn (1964 – 2020)

Jim Zinn

You probably saw him around the Hill, pedaling a bicycle with an enormous black box on the front, a box from which he would remove all manner of equipment that allowed him to fix whatever had gone wrong in Capitol Hill row house. Or maybe you even were one of the lucky ones whose house was taken care by him over the years. His name was Jim Zinn, and he died suddenly on October 14.

Before Jim became the Hill’s favorite handyman, he devoted his life to service. Born on June 13, 1964 in Sacramento, he grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Davis, California, where he graduated from the University of California. Post graduation, he joined the Peace Corps, who sent him to The Gambia where he worked on forestry and chimpanzee projects. Back in the US, he joined the District government to help them help the unhoused and others who threatened to fall through the cracks in the system.

When this became too stressful, Jim looked for other ways of helping, and his skill in keeping his own home in order became a career. But not a career that would keep him from what was really important: time with his family, riding his bike, or attending Nats games. Jim even managed to convince his wife Francesca and daughter Sophia to spend a year sailing around the Caribbean. Together with their dog Calvi, they spent the time hopping from one island to the next.

The Peregrine crew celebrate Festivus in 2019. Jim as at bottom right. (RSP)

He also arranged his schedule so that he could spend an hour in the morning at Peregrine Coffee on 7th Street, discussing the news of the day with a rotating cast of about a dozen whose schedules allowed for such a break.

The others knew that when Jim pulled out his little notebook and stumpy pencil that they had 15 minutes to wrap up the discussion before Jim, daily schedule in hand, mounted his bicycle to continue his one-man fight against old house entropy.


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