Who was James Bean?
Hardy a week goes by that we are asked "Who is James Bean?" by one customer, while another one will tell us their "James Bean" story.
James was one of those people who were truly larger than life. He was a short, bigmouth, country-boy with a mischievous cackle that could be heard 2 blocks away. Even the people who only met him once would remember him for years because of the spark and energy he possessed, as he truly was one remarkable guy.
James was raised in small town Prague, Oklahoma, but always dreamed about life in a bigger city. When his mother died while he was in college, he took his inheritance and started his own antique shop. While most of his friends told him we could not succeed, he was stubborn and set out to prove them wrong. James' rare ability to connect with customers, his decorating skills, and business savvy soon lead to selling antiques in Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Houston. His decorating skills were photographed in magazines, and he was The Antique Dealer on the lips of all Oklahoma City Society.
His first store turned into two stores, and then, into an antique mall.
But success wasn’t James' only passion; he loved animals and helped place hundreds of stray dogs and cats over his lifetime, even saving animals from estates where the owners had passed away and the heirs left them behind. James' own death occurred because he was trying to rescue two dogs from his burning home that he had previously rescued.
His passion for animals extends to humans, too. He was always there for people when they needed it the most. He would stop and help an older lady change a tire on her car and be late to open his store. He would find out a friend-of-a-friend was about to be evicted and he would hold a fundraiser for them. He gave away 7 cars to needy people in his lifetime, not to mention housefuls of furniture to victims of tornados, fires, and even women starting life over after divorces from abusive husbands. He would spend hours counseling widows about grief and how to rebuild a life after their husbands death, never taking a dime for his advise. At parties, he would take an interest in the shy people standing in the corners and get them involved, and he was always everyone’s best friend.
All it would take was for him to overhear a story about someone in need and he was the first to respond with help.
James was also a real person. He drank, smoked, gambled and traveled around the county and never turned down a party invitation, and the next day would be helping a friend move or giving money to the homeless. His friends would often say he was one drama short of a Johnny cash song.
To me, the biggest testament to the impact James had on people was when he died. James had no family when he died, but over 500 people attended his memorial service. They were friends, customers, former neighbors, classmates, and people that knew him from his local hangouts. All of them had a 'James story', a story about the time he helped them out or was there for them, or helped a friend of theirs, or a story that sounded too crazy to be true, but that really happened or made an impact on them that they could not forget. When he died, 3 different local bars held fundraisers with live performers to help with funeral cost; the antique stores in Dallas gathered donations for the ASPCA for a donation in his name; over $8,000 in flowers were donated by local florists; dozens of people arranged free services to help cover his funeral costs, and even volunteered to keep his store open after he passed. His house was soon nicknamed the "Gianni Versace House" due to the never-ending flower arrangements that were left at the front gates of his home, almost daily for two years
James always hoped by helping people, he could teach them to be generous with their time and money and they would, in-turn, help others along their way.
As you can see, he succeeded.