Mourning longtime West Seattle businessman Jim Sweeney

February 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm | In Obituaries, West Seattle news, West Seattle people | 44 Comments

Longtime West Seattle businessman Jim Sweeney, who has operated Alki Lumber in The Triangle for more than half a century, has died. (This was reported in the WSB Forums last night, and both the family and the business have now confirmed it.) Our photo is from September 2010, when the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle honored Mr. Sweeney as an “Everyday Hero” for donating materials to a club service project at Westcrest Park. He had told club members that day that, while Seattle had more than 130 lumber yards when he took over Alki Lumber in 1959, only a handful remained by the turn of the millennium. Mr. Sweeney was 73 years old; his memorial service is planned for 2 pm Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe. We’re expecting additional information from his family later, and will add it then.

ADDED 3:32 PM: From the Sweeney family:

James Brandon Sweeney, 73, of West Seattle died peacefully with his family by his side on Sunday, February 5, 2012 at Swedish Hospital. The cause of death was cardiac arrest. Jim was born in Seattle on December 30, 1938 and grew up in West Seattle. He graduated from West Seattle High School in 1957. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Judy, and their two daughters, Lisa (John Guthrie) and Lynn (Matt Pedersen), five grandchildren, his sister Karin (Don Boos) and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and a long list of friends. Jim owned and operated Alki Lumber for over 50 years. The business was founded by his grandfather in 1921. He was an avid, expert skier and enjoyed traveling the world with Judy by his side. Among his greatest gifts, above all, were his generosity, patience and incredible wisdom that touched many lives.

A vigil will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) Catholic Church, 7000 35th Avenue SW, on Saturday, February 11, at 7 pm, and funeral Mass at OLG on Sunday, February 12 at 2 pm. A reception celebrating Jim’s life and legacy will follow at The Hall at Fauntleroy. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to West Seattle Pee Wee Baseball or the Medic One Foundation.

44 Comments

  1. We are so sad to hear of Jim’s passing, he was a wonderful, warmhearted man with a very generous spirit. He will be greatly missed and his absence at Alki Lumber felt by many. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.

    Comment by Cathleen — 12:10 pm February 6, 2012 #

  2. You won’t be forgotten, Jim. You and your works
    live on.

    Comment by G — 12:30 pm February 6, 2012 #

  3. Sorry to hear that. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this man.

    Comment by Dale Swanson — 12:47 pm February 6, 2012 #

  4. He was a true pillar of the West Seattle community.

    Comment by Gregg — 1:01 pm February 6, 2012 #

  5. shocked; too much death/sadness in past 24 hrs

    Comment by Diane — 1:17 pm February 6, 2012 #

  6. Jim was a great guy, and many of us are better people by knowing him. Prayers & thoughts to his family. He made an impact that will be around for a long time.

    May there always be work for your hands to do ..
    May your purse always hold a coin or two…
    May the sun always shine on your windowpane…
    May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain…
    May the hand of a friend always be near you…
    May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you…
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

    Comment by WSFrenchs — 1:19 pm February 6, 2012 #

  7. So sad to hear this. We have done business with Jim and Alki Lumber for over 20 years. Heartfelt condolences to his family and extended family at Alki Lumber.

    Comment by jwws — 1:29 pm February 6, 2012 #

  8. Jim – you were a wonderful man and mentor to me during a critical point in my life. You will be missed. My prayers go out to Judy, the entire Sweeney family and the Alki “family”. Russ

    Comment by Russ Schultz — 1:35 pm February 6, 2012 #

  9. It only seems like yesterday that we ran into Jim and Judy in Sun Valley. I’m sad to hear of his passing, he was, and continues to be an inspiration to me. His generosity and thoughtfulness stands out for all of to learn from. Our prayers go out to Judy and all Jim’s friends. God Bless!

    Comment by Jeff Carnevali — 2:02 pm February 6, 2012 #

  10. Jim, you were a very kind and generous person as well as a very dear friend. You will be missed

    M Stratton

    Comment by M Stratton — 3:33 pm February 6, 2012 #

  11. West Seattle has lost another pillar of our community. Rest in Peace Jim. Judy and family our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Comment by Courtesy Accounting — 3:42 pm February 6, 2012 #

  12. I am so very sorry to hear this. I will miss seeing Jim in our Triangle neighborhood. Thoughts go out to all of the Alki Lumber employees and especially to Judy.

    Comment by Sharonn Meeks — 3:42 pm February 6, 2012 #

  13. Jim Sweeney was, as my kids said when they met him recently, “a Champion” in every meaning of the word. A family friend who will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with Judy and family.

    Comment by Steve K. — 4:53 pm February 6, 2012 #

  14. If you are meant to give more than you take…then Jim will always be that guy to all that engaged him…

    Comment by DG — 5:09 pm February 6, 2012 #

  15. Jim Sweeney was an incredible individual. I have had the honor to work with him for the last 16 years. During my relationship with Jim, he cared about others, he looked out for others and would help out anyway he could. Jim was a foundation for West Seattle and we need more people like him in West Seattle and the world.

    I will truly miss his smile and presence around West Seattle and especially at Alki Lumber.

    Comment by Thomas Fine — 5:20 pm February 6, 2012 #

  16. I have done business with Jim at Alki Lumber for over 15 years. Jim trusted me with my first account and was always willing to be flexible and helpful in order for me to see projects through. He was always a sympathetic ear and offered advice and help even with things not pertaining to lumber. I really enjoy the family atmosphere he created.Jim really offered trust in a hand shake and thats something that is rarely seen nowadays. He will be sorely missed.

    Comment by Aaron Vanek — 5:35 pm February 6, 2012 #

  17. As a 15 year employee for “Mister Sweeney”, the news of his passing hit really really hard. Today was a very somber day for all of us at Alki Lumber. I am proud to say that I worked for “Mister Sweeney”at Alki Lumber. We his employees are very different people from various backgrounds of life; however I know that I speak for every single one of us that we all have a healthy respect for the man who was our beloved boss and friend.

    Comment by James Hunt — 7:19 pm February 6, 2012 #

  18. Jim made me feel like a good friend and he was a generous person. He was a community supporter that will be irreplaceable A smile that I will miss.

    Comment by Neal — 8:00 pm February 6, 2012 #

  19. Jim and Alki Lumber have been huge supporters of West Seattle Pee Wee Baseball for years. His generosity will be remembered for years to come.

    Comment by Eric Olson — 8:00 pm February 6, 2012 #

  20. I feel I lost a friend although I only knew Sweeney at the lumbar yard. I think that his attitude of treating customers as friends seems to flow to everyone that works there, and his memory will never be lost, but his presence will be definitely missed.

    Comment by dsa — 8:06 pm February 6, 2012 #

  21. You are loved and missed. The hole in your family and community is huge! As is the hole in out hearts.

    Comment by Christine Terry — 8:16 pm February 6, 2012 #

  22. 40 plus years ago Jim and Alki lumber Sponserd a West Seattle little league soccer team for 12 plus years, “Alki Lumber Jacks” and as a sponser they were given pictured plaques, as time went on the plaques were posted in the store,having played on those teams and now being a carpenter and getting supplies over the years and seeing those small things posted and pointing out to Jim one day, I was in those pictures and saying thank you as an adult and seeing Jim smile from ear to ear….
    WS lost a pillar, thoughts and prays to Jim’s family and to all who knew him,

    Comment by Kc — 8:29 pm February 6, 2012 #

  23. Sincere condolences to the Sweeney family & extended family of many friends. West Seattle lost a man of great prestige. He is in our hearts always & forever.

    Comment by jens — 9:40 pm February 6, 2012 #

  24. We will miss you. You were such a gentle giant.

    Comment by Joan Clark — 6:32 am February 7, 2012 #

  25. Jim lead with humility and confidence. His generosity, humor and willingness to help others was shared daily. He and staff at Alki Lumber are now and have been the center of commerce for hundreds of businesses whose success became more acheivable with the service and support found there.
    Thank You Jim for all you’ve done for so many.
    We’re better people because of you and how you
    lead by example. May the legacy of your wisdom, support for others and beliefs in community live on through continued successful operations by devoted employees.
    With deepest sympathy to the Sweeney Family and staff.

    Comment by Robert Kruse and Family — 7:08 am February 7, 2012 #

  26. Jim took a chance and helped us find a space when we had no other options for starting our shop. He was a mentor in business, had a great sense of humor, and his door was always open to discuss ideas.

    Comment by M2S — 8:54 am February 7, 2012 #

  27. Jim Sweeney was a great guy who made a difference to a lot of people. Perhaps he was a throwback to another era… but the challenge in his passing is for others to carry on in his tradition.
    For business owners: know your customers, have integrity, reach out and be involved in your community.
    For residents of the area: utilize your local business, get to know the people who help you, support their business by affirming that community and connection is often more important than the absolute lowest price.
    Thanks for the ride, Don. Your spirit lives on!

    Comment by Carol — 9:12 am February 7, 2012 #

  28. I never walked into West Golf Course without thinking Jim will be sitting there with sandwich. If you knew Jim, you knew where to find him outside of work. A friend of our family for over 55 years. God Bless and thank you for all your support.

    Comment by don lenning — 12:22 pm February 7, 2012 #

  29. Jim,
    What a prince of a person you were and will remain in my mind. So caring and giving to everyone including me and my daughters, Sarah and Aimee…especially during the days of Mogul Mouse Ski School and the Alpine Inn at Crystal Mountain.
    So happy to have seen you in December in Sun Valley and a special thanks for coming to my art opening. I can’t believe you are gone. You’ve left us too soon!
    Mary Stratton

    Comment by Mary Stratton — 5:59 pm February 7, 2012 #

  30. Many thanks to Jim for being good to my brothers Charlie, Dan and likely Anthony Golden.

    Comment by golden — 8:18 pm February 7, 2012 #

  31. Jim your legacy will always live on through your family. You and Judy have raised a wonderful family. I will treasure the few times that we crossed paths and will always remember the special attention that everyone received at Alki Lumber. West Seattle stands tall because of your good deeds. You were too young to leave us. Thanks for the memories. Steve Hodson and family.

    Comment by Woodsman- Steve — 9:23 pm February 7, 2012 #

  32. I am a new-comer to W/Sea. (only 25yrs). Jim was one of the 1st businessmen I met. I have remodeled a couple of houses and built another. Jim’s advice was greatly appreciated over the years. Later on I would drop by at about closing time and we would talk stocks & world events. The whole Alki/Dearborn lumber crew did it the old fashioned way….SERVICE! I can’t count how many times I needed rush products and they were able to procure them. This all flowed from the top “JIM”. Jim was a Mentor to me in many ways. I will greatly miss him. My deepest condolences go out to Judy and her family as well as the guys at the yard.

    Comment by J. Nark — 8:10 am February 8, 2012 #

  33. What I wouldn’t give to hear “Well…What do you know?” as was a common greeting of his at the yard…

    You wanted to say something that sounded really smart in return…but usually it was enough that he acknowledged you were there…

    Comment by 365Stairs — 10:48 am February 8, 2012 #

  34. I remember the day I stopped at the yard. Judy lived next door to us. Jim said “I love Judy and wish to ask her to be my wife. But I’m wondering what her fathewr will say.” I told Jim that her father will come around, besides you’re not going to marry him. Just ask her to marry you and he soon did. She said yes. Been down hill ever since.

    Better friends you will never have. Much Love and heart felt sympathy to the family.

    The Hahn family

    Comment by Donald Hahn — 2:06 pm February 8, 2012 #

  35. Jim Sweeney was a humble, principled businessman,who was respected and admired for his charity and love of family and friends. Jim cherished life and enjoyed sharing it with others.We are all fortunate to have known Jim, and will cherish the memories of the times spent in his company. To Judy,Lisa, John, Lynn, and Matt our prayers are with you and wish you peace and comfort. RIP Jim Sweeney. Sandy Schell & Ken Hubbart

    Comment by Ken Hubbart — 6:00 pm February 8, 2012 #

  36. I worked for Alki Lumber for 11 years and left in 05 for a time. I came back this October and was Lucky to again be part of his team and that is how I feel You don’t work for Jim “Sweeney” but with him as he was always hands on he was one of us doing what needed to be done. He was very good to myself as well as my family and for that I will always be grateful. I loved him like a father I will miss him so much. Thank you Jim for everything!!! My heart and Love go to the Family for sharing him not with just me as it goes way Beyond that. I will miss his voice “Howdy” get some much deserved rest Jim. XOXO

    Comment by Linda gordon — 8:06 pm February 8, 2012 #

  37. Dear Judy,
    It’s been years since I moved from West Seattle. But I’ve always kept the fun memories of our many dinners, weekends at Chelan, bicycle trips to the San Juans, skiing, in my heart. Many great laughs we had. Jim was so easy going, approachable, good humor and generous. And both of you were simply great fun to be around.
    I’m sorry for your loss.
    Warmest regards,
    Chris Whitney (Grimes)

    Comment by Chris Whitney — 9:19 am February 9, 2012 #

  38. Judy:
    So sorry for your loss.
    May peace be with you and your family.
    —Connie and Denny Hinton

    Comment by Dennis Hinton — 4:34 pm February 10, 2012 #

  39. Dear Judy & Family,
    I am a contractor that has been doing business with Alki Lumber for almost 20 years. I want to recall for everyones sake, two instances regarding Jim and his bottomless generosity.

    One instance, was an anniversary dinner a few years ago with my wife @ Jack’s. As we were eating dinner, Judy & Jim walked past to take a table further towards the back. Jim stops and says hello and we exchange pleasantries. A while later, our waitress asks us if we were having desert. It turns out that Jim had paid for our dinner!!
    I became a huge admirer of Jim.

    The second encounter with Jim was when he said to me one day,”if you ever have to work on a Saturday, come by & get the key on Friday so that you can get whatever you need. (This was before Alki was open on Saturday.) Talk about total trust & generosity!
    I truly admire the way the man wore his success. As we lose another one of our finest citizens of our little town, I worry that there may not be enough people with the moral character, generosity, work ethics and heart to fill some very large shoes. I can only hope that the way that Jim lived his life, will serve as an blueprint to many of us, of how a life should be lived.
    Rest in peace my friend,
    Jerry Todo

    Comment by Jerry Todo — 8:12 pm February 10, 2012 #

  40. iremeber jim from some of my fathers stories. i was 5 or 6. my dad ron was a great electrician and boasted that he had wired that old office and other building on 3 or 4 spots,across the street where tyearsyhe car wash was on its present day spot and wherever.I never really listened, then one day we went to alki lumber for some wood. Iremember the repect Jim and my dad enjoyed. fifteen years later i was in there and had truck problems, Jim remembered me and tosses me the keys to.. his brand new toyota 4 runner I was so surprised, i told him i needed to get back to the job, he said bring it back tomorrow if you need. I

    Comment by gordon gracey — 2:10 am February 11, 2012 #

  41. I have been going to Alki Lumber for 15 years,and never once was Jim without ,a calming presence when things werent going according to plan,a humerous quip and an infectious smile.My two boys
    loved the free Mariners tickets and we will all miss Mr.Sweeney.

    Comment by DarrellG — 11:43 am February 11, 2012 #

  42. I had the pleasure of knowing Jim. When I first signed my lease for Fleurt, he was a huge help with building materials and supplies for the shop. Most of the lumber was hand picked by him and you can see it throughout the shop. I was so grateful for his help and knowledge during a stressful time.
    He made a lasting impression on how to treat your customers and fellow neighbors. The old fashioned neighborly way. He was calm, professional with an easy going smile.
    So it was bittersweet when his family came to me for memorial flowers for his service on Sunday.
    Judy, family, co-workers and friends, my thoughts and prayers go out to you all. Jim’s legacy lives on in the smallest places you would never have imagined.
    Samantha
    Fleurt

    Comment by sam c — 9:08 am February 12, 2012 #

  43. Jim Sweeney cast a large shadow. He had been an avid supporter of West Seattle. For the last ten years Jim and Alki Lumber have donated materials for the Fauntleroy Fall Festival. Those of you who made or received a bird house or planter box made over the years at the Festival should say a silent thank you to Jim Sweeney.

    Thanks Jim, You will be missed.

    Gordy Mandt
    Fauntleroy Fall Festival Volunteer

    Comment by Gordy Mandt — 6:45 pm February 12, 2012 #

  44. Memories of Jim….short sleeve checked button down shirt…Columbia shorts as late into fall as possible (a cold blast forces him to try some jeans)…Stan Smith tennis sneakers…”Well look who’s here”…..or “Howdy”….with a big smile…lending a hand to all who crossed his path….looking around to help those that didnt…proud to call him my friend….I’ll miss you Jim!…Fernando (Florida)

    Comment by Fernando — 11:31 am February 14, 2012 #

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