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A survivor's story: What Jim Maloof means to her

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A two-time survivor of one of the most devestating forms of childhood leukemia knew Jim Maloof in a different way than most of us.

His passing last Saturday night has affected Dawn Johnson Tanner and her family greatly, but she said she is thankful he was part of her life when she battled the disease.

Here is her story.

 

 

 

 

 

 When Jim Maloof was brought into the emergency room at Methodist Medical Center a month of so ago, a physician's assistant there was glad to see he was in good spirits despite not feeling well.

She wasn't sure if she'd been able to lift his spirits the way he used to lift her own when she was in the hospital, years earlier as a cancer patient at St. Jude's in Peoria and Memphis.

(Photo courtesy of Dawn Tanner) Jim Maloof, left, was a big part of the life of Dawn Johnson Tanner, a survivor of childhood cancer whom Maloof helped through his affiliation with St. Jude Children's Reseach Hospital. Maloof attended the wedding of Dawn and Jordan Tanner in April 2011 and sang to them during their reception, which Tanner said was a very special memory."Maybe it was just seeing me there, but he seemed to be in good spirits, joking and all. At least I would like to think I could make him smile, the way he could make me and the other kids smile. He was just such a special person," said Dawn Johnson Tanner. "He will be missed, by me and my family and by so many people."

Tanner said she believed she had a special relationship with Maloof, who died at his home Saturday night at the age of 93. "He had a wonderful relationship with all the St. Jude kids, but there was something special with us. Maybe it was because I had to go through it (cancer treatments) twice. Whatever it was, it helped me when I needed it because he was such a positive person," she said.

Saturday night was a "very sad time for me" upon learning Maloof had died. "It was a very sad time for so many."

Since his death, tributes to Maloof have been pouring in to local media outlets and also to a website set up at Jim Maloof Realtor, the real estate company founded by Maloof in 1969. On that site, www.IAmJimMaloof.com, is a brief obituary and information about funeral arrangements.

"Words can't express the sorrow our family is feeling over the passing of my father," said Michael Maloof, Jim Maloof's son and president of the real estate company. "He was a wonderful dad, a savvy businessman and a great leader. My dad was someone who truly wanted those around him to succeed and spent his life helping people win."

Also on the website the company is sharing its "Green Ribbon Tribute." The green ribbon, the company said on the website,  "signified the remembrance of all the big and little things Jim did in his lifetime to help those around him succeed."

Inside the ribbon is laurel, which the company said, "signifies how Jim himself succeeded, from building the region's top real estate company to serving as mayor of Peoria for 12 years." 

The public is invited to visit the website and share their own stories about Jim and to read others there.

Tanner shared her own tribute on Facebook when she made her profile picture on that was taken when she and Jordan Tanner were married in April 2011. Standing next to her is Maloof.

"I was just so happy he came to the wedding. I don't know if he knew how much that meant to me. And one of my favorites memories of that day is when he sand a song, "How Great Thou Art," with the string quartet we had at the reception," she said.

Tanner's parents, Neal and Lynne Johnson of Pekin, weren't surprised Maloof was there. "Jim and Dawn always had a special bond," Neal said. "He was a hero to our entire family and he was always there for her, like he was for all the kids of St. Jude."

Neal said the bond may have been formed because Maloof "came to our rescue twice" when Dawn became ill and her parents were unsure where to turn. The first time she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia was just 10 days before her 9th birthday. That type of leukemia is "high risk, with only a 20 percent success rate," Neal said. But the family, with Maloof's help, turned to St. Jude and after weeks at the center in Memphis Dawn went into remission.

But the cancer returned when she was 12 and Maloof again helped the family get Dawn into St. Jude. That time, the only thing that would save her was a bone marrow transplant and Dawn's brother Chris was the only match. He was 16 months old at the time.

"She was there a long time. It was more tough that time than anything I could have imagined. Jim would come down to Memphis and visit her when he got the chance. It helped so much. Between him and our church and friends, we were able to stay positive," Neal said.

Dawn, now 32, has been cancer free since. She participates in the St. Jude Run from Memphis to Peoria every year.

"Jim Maloof was such a loving man," Lynne Johnson said. She added that his capacity for compassion was amazing. "And he was not only compassionate, but he was so passionate about St. Jude and about the kids. His passing is such a huge loss for all of us, yet we're so thankful for him."

Dawn remembers well how sick she was after the cancer returned and she knew even then what the reality of her situation was. "Most of the friends I had made at St. Jude that had relapsed didn't make it. But I knew I had to be strong and stay positive and Jim helped me so much then. He would come and visit and he was always joking. He would sing to me and lift my spirits," she said.

"He touched so many lives in such a special way. I feel very, very fortunate that he was part of my life."

Maloof's funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at St. Mary's Cathedral. Visitation at the cathedral is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day.

Also, there will be a visitation Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Riverside Church in Downtown Peoria. A celebration of his life is scheduled at Riverside from 7 to 9 p.m.

Graveside services will be for immediate family only.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).