Picturing a Victim and a Scapegoat As a Man

By E.J. Montini
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
February 29, 2004

She wants to talk about her fiance of nearly five years, the man her 8-year-old daughter called daddy, a person who was known only to his friends and family until one night last summer when he stumbled onto Glendale Avenue, into the path of Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien's car and onto the front pages of local newspapers.

When that happened, the man whom Gloria Begay had known and loved was taken away from her. Not just physically or emotionally, but historically. The person she knew as Jim Reed was now a victim. Now a scapegoat. Now an afterthought in a power struggle between a cleric and a prosecutor's office.

"It was like they were making him out to be a bad person," Gloria says. "On TV. In court. But he was a good man. He was a hard worker. He was funny and kind. I only wish that people would know him as a person."

That's not possible now. At the upcoming hearing to decide the former bishop's fate, 43-year-old Jim Reed will be an aggravating factor for the prosecution, which will try to demonstrate the impact of his loss in order to make sure O'Brien is punished.

The defense will try to minimize O'Brien's punishment by maximizing the fact that Reed had been drinking. In the end, nothing simple and pure will be left of the outgoing man Gloria Begay lived with.

"He could make people laugh," she says. "He could go into a room full of strangers and that would be OK with him. He liked it. He would be happy because before long he would be making friends."

She pauses.

"Is that good?" she asks. "I am trying to think of him and everything we did and it's hard to do. I don't know how you do that."

I don't either. None of us does. When asked what it was that drew us to someone, we tend to speak in generalities. Her looks. Her sense of humor. Her voice. Her eyes. The sharpest of memories tend to blur over time, and after a while we're not sure how much of what we remember is real and how much is the way we want it to be or need it to be.

Were we out walking when we first held hands? What were we talking about? Were we joking around? Were we discussing movies or books or our favorite foods?

Or maybe the two of you met in a classroom, in a restaurant, at a party, in a bookstore, in the office? Who spoke first? Did someone introduce you? Did you buy her a drink? Help her with her bags? Walk her to her car? Did she ask you the time? Did you loan her a pen? When was the first time you slipped your arm around her waist?

And even if you do remember some of those things, could you discuss them with a stranger who would make them public? Even if you felt that the person you loved was being misunderstood or overlooked?

The family of Jim Reed didn't speak during the bishop's trial. Even after the verdict they didn't say much, only that the conviction was a good first step. He has many relations. Four sons. Sisters. Friends and co-workers.

"He loved working on the road construction job that he had," Gloria says. "He would get up early a lot of the time and be the first one. Some days when I needed to do other things and took a day off of work he would say, 'You can't do that.' That is how he was."

He liked rodeos. He and Gloria, who is 42, went to them often. He was known as a man who fancied his big black cowboy hat. One of his friends saw the hat on the street the night he was struck by the bishop's car. That's how she knew it was Jim who had died. He also liked to take road trips, sometimes to fairs or events far away from town.

"We would go for a day or two days," Gloria says. "We would look at the scenery, you know, and just drive. We had fun when we got there. Him always making friends."

That's the image of Jim Reed she wants us to see. I'm told there is a photograph of Jim that was taken at the Grand Canyon. He is standing among a group of strangers, but everyone is smiling. She believes he was telling a story, like he was a tour guide or something. He is smiling and everyone looks happy and there is laughter. She would like it very much if we could picture him like that.

Reach Montini at or (602) 444-8978


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