James Harry "Jim" Bagley worked in the county clerk's office for 25 years and became the chief deputy and "go-to guy" for department heads and employees all over the courthouse, according to one of his best friends, Collector Phil Couch.
"We buried Jim today at Ozark Memorial Park in Joplin," Couch said Wednesday. "He was a simple man who lived a very simple life. He had lived alone since his parents passed. He stayed to himself and didn't socialize a lot, but those of us who knew him knew how kind and caring he was."
Couch said the 56-year-old official, about 5 foot 7 and 140 pounds, had lived with Type 1 Diabetes for most of his adult life and that his delicate health had long worried colleagues. "He had severe problems with it over the years and a few episodes where he couldn't go back to work after lunch," said Couch.
"Everybody kept an eye out for him. He hadn't shown up at 8:45 last Friday, so Doug Shupe, the recorder, and I went to his house and got in through the garage door. He was still in bed. He had put his foot down and and it looked like he started to get out of bed and just went to sleep."
Bagley and his twin brother Bill, a Webb City software engineer, were together for three years at the University of Central Missouri until Bill's transfer to the University of Missouri at Rolla.
In a Thursday phone interview, Bill Bagley said his brother "was having sickness on and off during college and eight months after he graduated, he went into a coma;" however, he never let it burden him inordinately and returned to Warrensburg for a master's degree in economics.
Noting that Jim was an active member of the Vernon County Historical Society, Bill said, "He was more into history and could remember all the dates and details," Bill said.
"He studied all kinds, including the Civil War."
Couch said Jim "went every day to deliver the mail at 4:15 and was the first one to work so he could get his parking spot.
"He always took his vacation during Bushwhacker Days because his parking place would not be available. One time I asked what he'd done on vacation and he said, 'Well, I got my hair cut.'"
One reason Couch and Bagley knew each other so well was that Couch, as collector, logged more than $3 million a year in tax revenues while Bagley, as County Clerk Tammi Beach's chief deputy, wrote most of the checks, committing hundreds of account numbers to memory. "We have a double check system and Jim was my safety net," said Couch.
"If I made a mistake, he would be the guy to catch it. He was a wealth of knowledge, very intelligent. He didn't have a computer at home, so he would come to the library on Saturday and use one of theirs."
Couch noted that he was elected a couple of years prior to the arrival of Bagley, who had lived in Nevada since the seventh grade and graduated from Nevada High School. "He was a man of few words," Couch said.
"Even to his best friends, he was not a real talkative person. You had to know Jim to appreciate him. Reading was a big hobby. It wasn't uncommon for the postman to deliver two or three hardback books a week. He had a small TV but didn't watch it much. He had books everywhere of all kinds.
"His cats were his family. If he had a cat sick and it was bothering him, we took them to the veterinarian. I helped him bury three. He just had one left, who is old and in poor health. Monkey Face has diabetes, too. Bill and I took him to the Countryside Animal Hospital and are trying to find him a home.
"Bill's looks, mannerisms and voice are so much like Jim's that I turn my head and think I'm talking to Jim."
The Bagleys' father W.H. died in the 1990s and their mother Shirley, whose maiden name was McIntire, in 2007. They have three sisters, Peggy Goldhamer of Evanston, Ill., Bobbie Merzazada of Alexandria, Va., and Sharon Hammel of Columbia. "It's a sad loss for the taxpayers of Vernon County because somebody has got to pick up the slack," said Couch.
"I only saw him get mad three times in 25 years. It was usually a computer issue that upset him and you knew when to stay away from him. I loved the guy. I'm going to miss him greatly. He was a true friend. You don't find people like him every day. There wasn't anybody who didn't like Jim.
"He had humor to him and a little crooked smile. He made my life better. The last time I spoke with him was at 4 p.m. Thursday. He said, 'Thanks. When I get ready, I'll holler at you.'"