My Story:

A basic plank in Jim Witte’s personal platform is that everyone knows more about something than he does. So one of the aspects of meeting someone new is that it enables him to expand his sphere of knowledge. On the other hand, anyone could learn a whole lot from Jim Witte – especially if someone wants to learn about giving.

Here’s a quick list of the stuff Jim is into: He’s on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, largely because he lost his mother to Alzheimer’s. His father remarried to a woman who lost her first husband to the disease. Jim is also on the board of the Samuel Bell Home for the Sightless, a home for blind folks in Western Hills, founded in 1925, by Judge Samuel Bell, who was himself, sightless.

Then, too, Jim is President of the Flying Neutrons, a club that owns five single-engine planes at the Warren County Airport. About 100 Flying Neutrons members share the planes for business trips, family vacations or “hundred dollar hamburgers,” which is a way to describe a flight to Chicago, or Memphis, or wherever, to grab a burger and for the sheer joy of flying.

He has completed his instrument rating and is accumulating flight hours so he can put his Neutronship to work for a non-profit called Angel Flight, which provides free flights to anyone who needs to be somewhere to get some kind of specialized medical treatment. The pilot pays for the trip.

He’s an active swimmer and scuba diver. One Christmas season, he volunteered to be an underwater elf in the shark tank at the Newport Aquarium. Another time, he competed with his son, Evan, his brother, Ray, and his 97-year-old father in a family swimming relay. Jim also officiates high school swim meets and occasionally has to remind the kids he has been an official longer than anyone in the pool has been alive. He’s still in touch with Robert Jacobsen, his swim coach at Western Hills High, whose favorite saying was this: “A diamond is a lump of coal that stuck with it.”

His dad was a civil engineer and worked in the family construction industry, R.B. Witte & Sons. His mom was a Texan and daughter of a Church of Christ minister. Both were children of the Depression. “They taught me to work hard and save my money. I’m a grandchild of the Depression. But I’m not depressed, and neither were my parents.”

Jim is a thoroughly pleasant man, quick with a smile and equipped with a vast catalog of quips and jokes. He met his wife, Marylinne, at Miami U. They live in Montgomery. Evan is an air traffic controller. A daughter, Jen, is in San Francisco, helping Hispanic entrepreneurs launch businesses and then grow them.

He takes seriously the Bible verse that says those who have been given much had better give much back, inasmuch as that’s what’s expected of them.

“I want to give back,” he says. “I believe when you’re giving, when you’re serving others, you can forget about yourself and find real satisfaction.”