I N M E M O R I A M
Talented carver and restorer
Jim Tooker died on June 10, 2001 in Coral Springs, Florida after a long illness with heart disease. He was a noted and talented carver of decoys and a gifted restorer of antique decoys for many collectors and dealers.
Tooker was born on January 21, 1939 in Babylon, Long Island, New York. His first introduction to decoys was as a youngster, as his neighbor, Harold Thengs, often let him play with his shelldrake decoys in the duck pond behind the barn.
In his early years Tooker made his living as a clammer on the Great South Bay, tonguing hard clams on his father’s 30-foot Garvey from daybreak until dusk. Both his father and uncles made their living on the bay. His fascination with carving also came early through time spent with his uncle, Capt. George W. Combs Sr. He was always amazed that Uncle George, "with his huge hands and while chomping on a cigar," could create a work of art out of a piece of wood. For years Jim took his finished carvings to Capt. George for approval or constructive criticism.
Over the years Tooker produced countless decoys and works of folk art. And his speed and ability was amazing. He spent several years at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland teaching his techniques of carving, painting and restoration. One of his last major works was a full-size carousel horse.
During the early 1980s he had a partnership with Dan O’Donnell and they produced patterns of well-known decoys for carvers as well as the reproductions themselves. Those produced by Tooker are branded JET. He later spent many hours with Frank Finney, another noted restorer, and shared trade secrets.
Whenever Jim Tooker came to the Eastern Shore he brought friendship and gifts. He was a cousin and close friend, a generous man with a big heart, and will be missed by all who knew him.
-- George W. Combs Jr.