World Traveler, University of Miami alumnus, local businessman and Coral Gables resident James Lindley Doten passed away recently from pancreatic cancer.
Family and friends will gather at Coral Gables Congregational Church on what would have been Jim’s 56th birthday, Apr. 12, 3 p.m., to celebrate the larger-than-life man who was loved by many and called away too soon.
“To Jim the expression held true — there was no such thing as a stranger, only a friend he hadn’t met yet,” said younger brother Gary Doten while he and brother Steve Doten, sister Amy Minton, and mother Katherine Lindley Doten with husband James O’Neill, gathered at Jim’s longtime family home on Alhambra Circle shortly after his sudden passing Feb. 13.
In the driveway of the family’s Art Deco house, his classic BMW R 1100 GS motorcycle seemed ready for its next ride beside Jim’s precious Subaru with which he loved to tinker. Around the impeccably horticultured property his blooming star fruit, papaya, and fig trees cast light shadows on the bright red Bird of Paradise flowers.
Inside the home, originally purchased in 1938 for $10,000 by Jim’s grandparents James and Lillian Lindley, the family reminisced about Jim’s storied life and pondered who among his friends would be gifted with his extensive collection of bootleg recordings from Grateful Dead concerts long ago.
The self-employed entrepreneur who got his accounting degree and MBA from UM, lived life on his own terms. He was ready to hit the road anytime on his bike to celebrate his love of nature, live music, or UM sports with friends and family.
“He was so kind and so good to me,” said his mom, Katy. “I was single for a lot of years after his father died and nothing was too much trouble for him. It embodies how he was with everyone…always willing to help out at anytime and anywhere.”
Friend and author Bob Andelman met Jim in the freshman dorm 37 years ago.
“I was very socially inept in college,” Andelman said. “I asked a girl I met out on a date once and ran out of cash when the bill came. There was a pay phone nearby and the only number I knew was Jim’s. I called him up and he rode over on his motorcyle with that long hair like something out of the ’60s. He acted surprised to see me while handing me a $10 dollar bill under the table. Even though we were the same age he was like an older brother and always bailing me out of trouble…he was the coolest guy I ever knew.”
Born in Staten Island, NY, and raised in Mountainside, NJ, Jim returned to his mother’s hometown of Coral Gables to study and then settle after spending fun family summers visiting South Florida as a kid. His first of many sojourns to California was with the Frost Valley YMCA program in high school. It seems that trip and his 500-mile bicycling adventure to Nova Scotia at 17 years old birthed his passion for life on the road.
Turkey, Germany, Kuwait, Japan, Italy, France, New Zealand, and Switzerland were some of the stops he made along the way. The intrepid traveler would often journey alone in anticipation of that chance meeting or serendipitous magical moment the seasoned traveler knows well.
“He would meet new people everywhere and from sometimes obscure introductory situations they would become life long friends,” Gary said.
Jim was able to fulfill a life long dream last summer to ride his motorcycle through the Italian Alps. Almost immediately upon arriving in Milan, travel buddy and UM Economics professor Michael French had a serious accident and had to stay at a local hospital for weeks to convalesce.
“We had a whole itinerary and on the second day I had a terrible crash,” French said. “He rearranged the schedule and would take area day trips instead and then come visit me in the hospital every evening and show me pictures of where he had been. It took months for me to be able to even use crutches, I don’t know how I would’ve made it without Jim.”
When not traveling abroad or welcoming his international AirBnb clients (and ever growing roster of friends) to his bungalow home and guest house, Jim could be found kayaking in the Everglades or walking his beloved rescue dogs, Smokey and Brickell, around the golf course. Fabianna Dardati, a neighbor and friend of nearly 20 years, met Jim on a dog walk around the block and became his main pet sitter when he was on the road.
“He was such a compassionate man…funny and kind and always positive. The kind of friend you could count on,” Dardati said. “It was so natural for the dogs to stay with me after he passed. My family and I are so happy with them. Part of me feels like I am still just pet sitting and Jim is on another trip.”