Jokester Does It His Way at the End

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Jim Schinneller did not request to run a photo of the back of his head with his death notice in Sunday’s paper. Jim, a retired University of Wisconsin art professor, died at home Sept. 9 at age 81. It was an aneurysm. He went fast. The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee’s Jim Stingl wrote about him today.

“It’s a family that goes for a little bit of one-upmanship,” Jim Jr. said when I called to ask why his artist father had done an about-face for his, as they say in crossword puzzle land, “last writes.”

“He said, ‘I want you to take a picture of the back of my head. I want to give it to the kids for Christmas.’ ” They walked outside in front of his Fox Point home. He turned around and she snapped the color photo. Jim ordered 5-by-7 copies for each of his four grown children and one for Gloria’s brother, put each one in a frame and wrapped them up as gifts two years ago.

Why would he do this? Because it was funny. Because it was unexpected. Because it took the everyday and turned it on its head, or at least around the other way.

When Jim received the first royalty check in the 1960s for a popular art history textbook he wrote, “Art: Search and Self-Discovery,” he brought home the money in 1,000 single dollars. He had the kids stand at the bottom of the stairs while he rained the money down from the landing above.

Jim carried the silliness well into adulthood. Gloria said he would walk into a store and ask if they offered a 20% discount for good-looking customers. Or he’d tell total strangers he had picked up Gloria on Water St. and she just wouldn’t stop following him. “He teased all the time. It was never boring,” she said.