James Paul Wight
A Man with a Heart / A Man with a Vision
James Paul Wight was an artist, entrepreneur, adventurist and extreme sportsman. Santa Barbara locals will remember James for his years as a dedicated real estate broker. Also, he will be remembered for his numerous creative contributions in Summer Solstice Parades. And James’ closest friends will remember his enthusiastic years of participation at the Burning Man Festival.
In addition, James was a generous man, giving in many ways. For example, he was passionate about enlightening people to some of the world’s harsh realities. James demonstrated to people how they can make a “positive” change in their lives and in the lives of others. He showed people how they can improve their life by shifting their consciousness away from being in anger and fear. James said people become happy and thriving by behaving lovingly toward themselves and others.
The Early Years
James was born in Chicago in 1955. From the age of two he grew up in Arlington Heights, Illinois where he graduated high school in 1973. James fell in love with Colorado on a family trip to Steamboat Springs. Since then, he had made numerous ski trips there while completing an apprenticeship in Tool and Die-making. Upon graduating at the top of this program in 1976, he immediately moved to Craig, Colorado. He worked as a machinist and then became successful with his own appliance repair business.
A Major Turn of Events
However, in April 1979, 24 year old James’ plans for a peaceful, fulfilling, “normal” life on his 40 acres abruptly ended. He suffered a near fatal hang gliding accident that left him as a paralyzed quadriplegic. James became wheelchair-bound, with all of its incumbent pain, frustrations, limitations and medical issues.
Yet, this daunting event did not stop James from coming up with inventive and artistic business projects. He was able to create some level of increased comfort to his limited physical and financial state. However, sitting in an uncomfortable wheelchair all day created not only a sore bottom, but an increasingly sore and twisted spine. With every move James began to think how wonderful it would be if someone would just rub his aching back. He then thought, “I should just write “Rub Here” in big letters on the back of my T-shirts. This will give people an obvious hint of my need for some comfort.”
In 1993, James participated in the “S.A.G.E. Experience” personal growth seminars in Santa Barbara, California [his last place of residence]. James realized how many people were incapable of giving or receiving hugs and love from anyone. He thought, “I should put “Hug Here” on the front of the T-shirts and “Rub Here” on the back and sell them.” Thus was born the idea of HUG RUB Tees. So James was off to the races. That left however, a few hurdles in order for the business to come to fruition. James needed to create an attractive HUG HERE – RUB HERE logo. He needed financing and there was the issue of his physical limitations in running a T-shirt business. First and foremost he had to design an eye-catching, action-creating, iconic logo.
Kindred Spirits Meet
In 2006, during the beginning of the FREE HUGS campaign, James met Jerry Matteo “The Hug Man”. Jerry was holding his FREE HUGS sign in downtown Santa Barbara and getting quite a wonderful response. James shared with him how many people do not know the proper way to hug a person in a wheelchair. He said that others seem to shy away all together. James saw Jerry’s extreme passion for getting people together with his devotion to the FREE HUGS campaign. On that day a synergistic friendship between James and Jerry had begun.
During the following decade, after having spent more than 30 excruciatingly painful years in his wheelchair, James’ physical condition worsened. This required in 2010 the first of many recommended back surgeries.
However, after three relatively painless years, numerous hospitalizations followed. A bladder stone was removed. James endured three near death episodes. The first was from intractable blood infections. The second, a C-Diff gut infection and the third involving the removal of a huge abscess in his posterior. James was confined to bed at home starting in February, 2014 for a year. This was necessary for him to heal from the plastic surgery for the removed abscess. In April of 2015 he suffered yet another major pressure sore. This kept him still confined to bed and it had not yet healed as of April, 2016.
Yet during this time, James was determined to create the HUG HERE – RUB HERE logos. In addition, he was determined to somehow “make it financially”. He knew the HUG RUB T-shirt idea would be very profitable and world changing. James hoped that he could eventually support some spinal cord injury related charities. He wanted to help other injured people like himself. So, after some creative thought, James finally put pencil to paper. With a slip of the hand he created the uneven concentric circles of the finished design. James then added his own hand drawn bubbly type font and the original HUG HERE – RUB HERE logos were created.
Yet, even with the original designs on paper, James’s medical problems continued, making the running of a T-shirt business impossible. After some thought, James knew that Jerry Matteo “The Hug Man” would be the perfect partner for this endeavor. He planned to give Jerry a call at some point in the near future. However, James’ condition worsened during those two years and kept him distracted from this project.
After being prescribed numerous pain medications, James’ life became unmanageable and all of his life’s dreams were put on hold. As a result, James had given up after all these years of struggle. His condition was deemed terminal and he was taken to hospice care ready to die. When James was merely hours away from his death, Jerry Matteo got word of James’ condition in hospice. It had been nearly a decade since Jerry last saw him. Jerry immediately went to visit James in his dark and quiet room. In James’ own words, “It’s a ‘miracle’ that Jerry the ‘Hug Man’ himself came to visit me. I was mere hours away from death”.
An Old Dream Gets New Wings
James shared with Jerry his dream to create his “HUG HERE – RUB HERE” T-shirts. James told Jerry that he was the perfect guy to “put the legs under his vision”. So, he asked Jerry to take on the project. He asked him to run with it and make the idea a reality for the world to share. Jerry wholeheartedly consented to James’ “dying request”. James then gave Jerry all licensing and they discussed the plan for getting the business up and running. Due to Jerry’s dedication and passion, James will be able to contribute a portion of the proceeds to charitable organizations. He can help those involved with spinal cord injury research and assisting spinal injured people in other ways as well. James said, “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through suffering like I had to endure.”
So, inspired by the renewed excitement of seeing his vision manifested, James pulled himself out of his death spiral. He knew that fighting this death spiral would entail more months of serious pain and hard work. With a new lease on life, James proceeded to finish the artwork. Jerry directly set up the “HUG RUB BRANDS™” business. James talked about his idea to the staff at hospice and this buzz got the attention of the Dream Foundation. As a result, the Dream Foundation also became excited about the whole concept. They gave James a generous grant for HUG RUB BRANDS™, which was put toward the first printing of the T-shirts. Dream Foundation also contributed their graphic artist to complete the graphics for printing. Jerry generously put countless hours into building the HUG RUB BRANDS.com website.
Dedicated To The End
During the following 4 months, James endured so much pain and suffering. Yet, he did not let it stop him from working on this new project. James did not let the pain stop him from helping others. So, he continued spreading his message of love and compassion for others. James loved talking about how hugging helped people release “Oxytocin” [the bonding hormone] and of it’s healing properties. James’ efforts to serve others while he himself was suffering so much, was nothing less than “Heroic”. On April 17, 2016 James’ life journey came to a close. He passed on from this world, to a peaceful state of being. James is missed by many. However, the best part of him lives on in the memories of those whose lives he has touched. Most important, his message of “loving each other” now has a new “wearable” vehicle to help it spread world-wide.
In Loving Memory
James Paul Wight
1/1/1955 – 4/17/2016
HUG RUB BRANDS™ needs your support. Help us fulfill James’ vision of people sharing Hugs and Rubs worldwide.
Help us fulfill James’ vision of supporting others living with spinal cord injuries.
You can play an active role and transform lives one Hug and Rub at a time.
Please buy one of our “HUG HERE – RUB HERE” products for yourself, your family, or a friend or two.
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