Ke-Yi Jim “Jimmy” Hsieh ~ Class of 1962

Ke-Yi Jim “Jimmy” Hsieh

Class of 1962

Departed ~ January 20, 2008





Ke-Yi “Jim” Hsieh

HSIEH, Ke-Yi “Jim”The fourth child of Haoling and Janie Lee born on June 2, 1944 in Chongqing, China, died unexpectedly on January 24, 2008, at home in Franklin, TN. He was a resident of Nashville and Williamson County for over 37 years with deep roots. His friends were everywhere. Jim is preceded in death by his parents; son, Erich R. “Yobi” Hsieh from former wife Barbara Ramsey. He is survived by sons, Brent and Loren Hsieh from first wife Carolyn Hall; sisters, Nancy Kuo of West Lafayette, IN and Lucy Yuan of Palo Alto, CA; brother, Johnny Hsieh of Tucson, AZ. Jim had a successful career as an independent commercial artist and illustrator, and was committed to teaching in Adult Literacy Programs. His joyful response to life through his art, music, humor, love of children, food, and service to others in different stations of life, have touched many and will stay with us. A memorial gathering to celebrate Jim’s life will be 2 p.m., Saturday, February 2, 2008 at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 4800 Belmont Park Terrace, Nashville Rev. Randy Hoover-Dempsey officiating. Rev. Will Campbell will provide a remembrance. Bring your families, children, pictures, stories and music. View Jim’s work and life at
Seeking Information about Jim Hsieh’s Artwork

February 10, 2008 by jh44
Jim’s family would like to gather information about his body of work in preparation for a future retrospective exhibit. If you own some of Jim’s artwork, please send your contact information and any information about your piece(s) to, and we will write you back.

Thank you.

The Tennessean remembers Jim

February 8, 2008 by jh44
Click the link below to read the article.

Memorial is today for Franklin artist

By JANELL ROSS • Staff Writer • February 2, 2008

People who knew Ke-Yi “Jim” Hsieh of Franklin say he was a true Renaissance man — a well known commercial illustrator, a one-time Ball State University art instructor, singer, instrument maker, and deeply respected community volunteer.

Many of his friends first learned of the 63-year-old runner’s Jan. 24 death from a heart attack when a friend updated his blog, said long-time friend Steve Meinbresse.

“He lived so many disparate lives…,” said Meinbresse. “Since his death, those circles of friends have come together to try and plan something special to celebrate his life.”

He designed George W. Bush’s presidential re-election campaign letterhead and played a key role in the look and design of several retail stores, including Boot Country.

“I am preparing a handout for the service, hand-stamping 500,” said Brad Whitfield, owner of Whitfield Art Agency and a friend and colleague of Hsieh for more than 35 years. “And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that many showed up. Jim will be greatly missed.”

In 1948, Hsieh’s family was forced to flee mainland China for Taiwan because of political upheaval, according to a biography written by Hsieh’s brother. In Taiwan, the 7-year-old Hsieh’s artwork was rejected from a competition because the judges did not believe a child could produce the work submitted.

He wanted to sing

By the late 1960s, Hsieh was teaching art at Indiana’s Ball State University. In the early 1970s, he moved to Nashville. Hsieh wanted to sing.

“He was a fine musician in his own right. And I’m sure you’ve heard that he could do an uncanny Elvis and Johnny Mathis,” said the Rev. Will Campbell, a long-time friend and collector of Hsieh’s fine art. “But you know if you live around Nashville, you basically have to learn three chords to get a driver’s license. So sometimes he and I would do shows at some of the dives.”

It was around that time that Hsieh and Whitfield began their more than 30-year design collaboration. Together, the men designed the fixtures, the furniture, and overall look of Johnston & Murphy, Lucchese Boot Co. and other stores, said Whitfield.

“He walked into my office … with the rattiest-looking portfolio bag you ever saw,” Whitfield said. “But when I saw his work, his incredible work, that’s the moment professional relationship began.”

In recent years, Hsieh dedicated much of his time to volunteer work teaching recent immigrants English and math and GED courses at Williamson County jail.

A memorial will be at 2 p.m. today in St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 4800 Belmont Park Terrace in Nashville. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Literary Council of Williamson County or the Friends of Radnor Lake.

Update – Johnny mentioned that it was the presidential inaugural letterhead that Jim drew, not a re-election campaign letterhead as stated in the article.

A memorial gathering to celebrate Jim Hsieh’s life

January 29, 2008 by jh44
A memorial gathering to celebrate Jim Hsieh’s life will be held, Saturday, February 2, 2008, 2PM, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 4800 Belmont Park Terrace, Nashville, TN. Families with children, pictures, stories and live music welcome. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Literary Council of Williamson County, Franklin, TN. Contact Rita Dozier at 472-5010.

UPDATE – There has been some confusion about the time of the memorial. The time is definitely 2pm. And children are definitely welcomed and encouraged.

Also – checks can be sent directly to the Literacy Council at:

The Literacy Council
129 W Fowlkes, suite 143
Franklin TN 37064

2nd UPDATE – Inadvertently omitted from the initial post – In lieu of flowers, donations can also be made to Radnor Lake. By including Jim’s name the family will be notified of the gift. Make checks payable to:

The Friends of Radnor Lake
P.O. Box 40324
Nashville, TN 37204

Sad news

January 28, 2008 by jh44

It is with deep sadness that I report that my friend Jim Hsieh passed on this week. Jim died suddenly, at home in Williamson County, and apparently without suffering.

Jim’s family and friends are developing a memorial service. The tentative date is Saturday February 2, 2008.

I have taken over this blog of Jim’s to use it as a information source for the memorial service and as a tribute to Jim. We are gathering images, music, and memories to post here and to include in the memorial gathering. Please send anything you would like to share to or post comments to this blog.

Update – I have begun adding photos and images to a FriendsOfJimHsieh flickr account. You can click on the flickr images Drawings, Paintings, and Photos link on the right of this page to view all the sets. Please add comments to the images if you like. Images are kept in sets according to the source.

Bud Miller

Memories and Memorials

Please leave your memories of Jim as comments to this page. Two of Jim’s high school friends left comments on here before this page was available. Others left their thoughts on Jim’s first post here. And here.

Update: Jim’s brother Johnny has written “A Brief Sketch of Jim Hsieh’s Life, 1944-2008″. Read it here: jim.pdf

11 Responses to “Memories and Memorials”

brad whitfield Says:
January 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm


susan Breining Says:
January 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm
Jim, I met you the first day on my new job with Whitfield Art Agency. We celebrated many birthdays, holidays, food and life over the last 25 years. You helped me pick out a guitar before I knew how to play it and showed me the chords. I so enjoyed those Sat afternoon guitar lessons-my Saturdays with Jim. I will always remember you singing Elvis songs with my mom. I thought there was a lot more time.

Jud Phillips Says:
January 29, 2008 at 7:45 pm
I think it was 1970 when we first met. Between then and now, God only know how much art we produced, how many songs we traided, and how many laughs and tears we shared. Saturday before last, we shared a dinner table and swapped songs until the late hours. We had no idea it would be our last time which is the way it should be. He taught us all he could. It’s up to us to carry on.
Godspeed, my friend. I support you in your journey.

Ron Weatherly Says:
January 30, 2008 at 7:28 am
I first met Jim in 1978 through another artist named Jeff Wright who has long since passed. Jim and I shared many views on drawing,painting and the world. He introduced me to a tecnique using rapidigraph pens on a myston sprayed surface and I showed him how I was working with Prismacolor pencils on top of water-color and Dr. Martin’s Dyes washes ,which he took to a new level. Jim shared a secret with me only a few new about, that I tried to hide that I had a color defecincy in my eyes, never passed color test in my entire life. While I was painting large scaled murals I would get tired, my colors would get muddy looking, Jim would come over to the studio and label my tubes of paint and arrange them hot to cool to help me out. Did it on his own. Every thing this man did he did with passion including helping friends bury their animals. After learning of my German Shepard Sheba’s passing Jim called to tell me he was sorry to hear about Sheba. I told him I had just gotten back to east Nashville from Dickson County burying Sheba and recieved a call from Eichelberger that I buried her in the wrong spot and I had to come back and move her to the other side of the tree ,Jim said I’ll come and help. I said Jim it’s tornado weather out there it’s really scary ,he said we need to be quick about it then. We met on the hi-way and went out there. I was scouting out and clearing a place to put her and Jim was digging up Sheba and I heard SHIT LOOK I turned around he was pointing to the sky the bottom had dropped out of the very dark clouds and formed a twister coming up the valley towards us. I said here Jim you dig the new hole and I’ll get Sheba I know how she’s in there.She was all wrapped up in plastic. He started to dig like crazy. After I had gotten her out and carried her to the new spot Jim had a hole big enough to bury a cow. Laughingly I said damn Jim we don’t need to go to China! Covered with mud and totaly soaked we put her in and covered her over and picked up the tools and headed for the car, keeping a eye on the sky the entire time. I said Jim where’s the pick-axe he started to laugh and said I think I buried it with Sheba. I said oh well lets get out of here .I loved Jim and his spirit and always will….. See ya maestro thanks for being there for me!

Terry Huff Says:
January 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm
I met Jim when he was my next door neighbor in 1980. We began writing songs together, one of which took 25 years to complete. Jim loved that song. He gave birth to it. He would revive it every few years and say, “We have to finish that song.” My usual response was that I thought we had finished it. We recorded it about a year ago. We made a routine of watching Titans football together for several seasons. I would always insist on a half-time walk. Invariably, we would miss a key play at the beginning of the second half. He eventually learned to say, when I insisted on the walk, “How far are we going?” I know that Jim will remain an inspiration to all of us who loved him and who were fortunate to have been loved by him. How many people have that much love to give to so many? Love and peace to you, Jim, and to all your friends.

Rudy Xavier Says:
January 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm
I’ve known Jimmy for 47 years, since junior year at high school. He, ChenTze Wu and I were “the three musketeers” for as long as we could be. There were ony 36 of us in this graduating class; not something you see these days in classes of several thousand students. And so we were overjoyed to reunite 24 of us in 1998, including Jimmy. Jimmy and I picked up almost where we left off: laughing, writing songs, playing the guitar, singing duets, putting down tracks on the first take. It was magic. Susan Breining really touched a nerve as I read her notes. I thought we had more time too. But I will always cherish the nights, the songs, the laughter and the fun we could generate without spending a dime, sprinkled over these last 10 years. If we had only spent more time. Rest in peace my friend. You had so much love to give and I know you felt the love of so many in return. Can there be a more fitting epitaph?

Paula Fan Says:
February 1, 2008 at 1:54 am
Jimmy was always the cool one. After spending the first decade of life as part of a solitary circle of five Fans, being presented with a quartet of cousins came as a wondrous surprise. They appeared one by one, these family members with the funny last name that defied pronunciation at first glance, staying with us now and then and bringing a taste of being grownup into our Chinese-almost-American childhoods.

Nancy mothered us, Johnny made us laugh. Lucy’s flirtatious short skirts evoked an “Oh, wow!” in my blossoming awareness. And then there was Jimmy, eighteen years old to my ten, so laid back, so cool, so different, so sexy(?!!) , so…un-Chinese. Jimmy, who amused us with his drawings and cartoons—Robin, the Boy Wonder, whimsically sketched with the spandex super-hero uniform stretched over the heroically expanded breast of a real robin. Of course the shirt was red. Jimmy, who played the…guitar? Chinese children played the piano or the violin, and we played CLASSICAL music! Not Jimmy, who sang down-home American to a hillbilly beat. Jimmy, who didn’t become a doctor or lawyer or scientist like good Chinese kids were supposed to do. Jimmy who married a white girl!!! Jimmy, who became a parent and suddenly, in my eyes, grew up.

Jimmy eventually disappeared from our lives except for the occasional family gathering. Such are the perils of time and distance, and now, I shall never get to know him. Still, as I reflect upon our moments together all those years ago, Jimmy lives on in my memory as a unique being. While my parents never played the What All Good Chinese Children Do game with me—thanks, Mom and Dad—Jimmy was the first ever CHINESE free spirit to enter my awareness, showing my by example that it was, and is, OK to be different. The last time I saw him he was singing “Red Sails in the Sunset,” all by himself with no accompaniment.

Jimmy was always the cool one.

Bud Miller Says:
February 1, 2008 at 8:30 am
It has been helpful for me to read the thoughts and view the scenes of Jim’s friends and families. Thanks. Lots of other people are reading them too. This site has had about 900 visits a day for the last couple of days. A surprising number of those visitors come late at night. I would guess those are a combination of local folks who are grabbing a little time when they can – like me tonite – and folks in faraway time zones. Like you Cristina.

Jim has been the closest of friends to me for 35 yrs. DiAnne introduced us, and we became friends quickly. But I don’t know how. I was 21 and green and timid and arrogant and obnoxious. Jim was a little older, but he had also done stuff. He had a beautiful young family; he had created things; he had been to faraway time zones. I don’t know how we became friends, but it was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me Over those 35 years we shared births and deaths, marriages and divorces, happy accidents and tragic ones, and a lot of time. Jim has shared my good times and bad times, and he allowed me share his. We all know how Jim can draw you in – like an IMAX theatre – once you are there, YOU ARE THERE.

And we have shared a lot of mundane time. In recent years, as old bachelors bitching about politics and difficult-to-maintain houses – and talking about women – like we were still 14 – like we aren’t really. I don’t know how to say how much I miss him. How much less interesting my world is now.

The other day, someone close to Jim said, “I knew Jim when he wasn’t perfect.” It was funny and true. It might be tempting, under the circumstances, to be sweet and pollyanna about it and say that he was a perfect “Jim Hsieh”. But that would discount how he had gotten better and better – and better and better. Continuous improvement. A function approaching its limit. Because we can’t be perfect really.

Jim was always talented (read the bio Johnny wrote on the page above), but he got more and more skilled – always funny, but he got more amusing – always smart, but he got more knowledgeable. There are so many things I admire about Jim, and I admire even more how he strove to be better, to be a better person. There are so many things I admire about Jim, but there is one singularity. He was the kindest man I ever met.

Barry Buxkamper Says:
February 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm
Dear Jim,

During 30 years of friendship we consoled each other when my daughter and your son died just several years apart; we raised many a glass before during and after Beer Camp; and we giggled like girls, made-up atrocious puns (your favorite kind) and sang Everly Brothers songs (you like an angel, me off pitch) while painting three murals together.

And now there’s no more. And you’re not here to console me.

I loved you then and I’ll love you still,

brenda butka Says:
February 4, 2008 at 9:06 pm
Everyone remembers Jim’s vast artistic and musical talent–he could always reduce our family to sentimental tears with his rendering of “Old Dog Shep”–but I also appreciated his gifts as a dishwasher. After dinner, he would come in, roll up his shirtsleeves, get an apron, and take over the sink, telling us all about he learned his profession in the kitchen at Interlochen Music Camp and (I think) working at camps in the Catskills.

He will certainly be missed around our table.

Dorthy Graham Says:
February 5, 2008 at 4:25 am
I knew Jim back in the late 70’s I guess, when he worked some with my Dad and his folks at IDG. Daddy always loved Jim a lot, and spoke of him with that twinkle in his eye. As for me, like some of the others who have written about Jim here, he seemed pretty perfect really. And we even snuck in a couple of dates. But hey, the times being what they were, and me being the person I was and what not, we sort of lost touch. But over the years, I’ve kept up here and there with Jim thru the grapevine, and thoughts of him have always made me smile. The gentleness and sweetness is what I remember most clearly down the tunnel of years, oh and the humor. Those of you who have spent all these years with him and will miss him so, there are no words really, to say how sorry I am. Please accept my deepest condolences.