"One thing becomes clearer as one gets older and one's fishing experience increases, and that is the paramount importance of one's fishing companions." - John Ashley Cooper

If you're a small child and your dad wants to go fishing with you, the request might bring an eye roll or a "do we HAVE to?" But when dad is older and he really wants to go fishing just one more time, you move heaven and earth to bring that wish. The family has rallied around Jim as he's faced several health challenges over the last few years.  Virginia Gay Nursing and Rehab had never been asked if it was okay to take someone fishing but when Jim Merchant's kids asked, the answer was, "Why not?" 

When Jim at 84 years old, said that he'd like to go fishing, just one more time, it set the wheels into motion. His four sons began planning their trip on the water with their dad. They made a second phone call to St. Croix Hospice to see if they could find a nurse to ride along, and within 10 minutes they had someone who wanted to be there for that. 

I don't think a simple "no" would have stopped Jim's sons in their quest to make this happen for their dad. Jim's boys were planning to move heaven and earth if they needed to so that they could grant their dad's wish.

What started out as a fishing trip, turned into a family outing, complete with Rosie one of the family's pets. Jim's four sons Allan, Scott, Mike and Marc loaded Jim, wheelchair and all, into a boat. Donning a life jacket onto their dad for safety, the group left the boat dock and took off down the Cedar River on Tuesday night. They had a spot chosen for their destination, a bit of a boat ride away.

The boys said that Donna, Jim's wife and their mother, would remain on dry land where she is much more comfortable. She waited patiently for nearly two hours for Jim's return, it's something you do when you're been married 61 years. 

Marc said that when the boys were young Jim, a Navy Veteran, would take them fishing. He taught the boys to hold their breath long enough so that they could go underwater to retrieve their snagged lines. He also taught them how to fish with their hands under log jams. He could remember his dad swimming in the pool from the three feet depth to the 6 foot level and back before surfacing, marveling as a kid at how long that took. 

It wasn't uncommon to catch fish, gut them, and put them on a stick over a fire to cook within minutes of the catch. Donna was known for saying, "They'll get sick!" Jim would reply, "Only for a little bit.." Days on the farm for the boys were filled with a lot of hard work, but Marc said, "Dad was always fair." The work ethic that the boys learned, helped each of the boys earn the money to buy their first cars.

While Jim didn't catch anything on this trip out with his sons, some that went along did and Mike said that this made his dad just as happy. The tradition of fishing is sure to continue for the Merchant family, in no small part thanks to their dad. 


With the advice of friends, the family sought the help of St. Croix Hospice to assist Jim. 

St. Croix Hospice is a nationally renowned, award-winning hospice agency that serves Iowa and other communities throughout the Midwest. Local St. Croix Hospice staff members live in the communities they serve, and they provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to patients and loved ones 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and wherever a patient calls home. St. Croix Hospice takes pride in round-the-clock availability, prompt response and same-day admissions - including during evenings, weekends and holidays. To learn more, contact St. Croix Hospice 24/7 at 855-278-2764 or visit www.stcroixhospice.com.


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VB May 17, 2023, 1:43 pm What a wonderful thing the boys did for their dad. I pray he can go 1 more time and catch 1 more fish. I've known the family for a very longtime.❤️
JA May 17, 2023, 5:46 pm Oh my gosh. My heart is beating for the love of this family. I have known Jim and family for many years through farming. I have watched this last year at Jim's health deterioration. Bless you all for sharing this wonderful story.. God bless you all.