Tribute to Jim Sensenig
By Holly Castle, ND, VNMI (NUNM 1997)
I met Dr. Sensenig for the first time in early 1994, when I was a first year student at NCNM.
I was invited to dinner by Dr. Harry Swope, whom I had met in 1991 in an 18-month homeopathy course given by Dr. Paul Herscu. It turned out that the dinner was taking place after an AANP board meeting. All the doctors in attendance were surprisingly interested in my experience at NCNM. At one point, Jim tells me that the original building that NCNM inhabited was the “Old Postal Building” in downtown Portland, a few blocks from where we were gathered for dinner. He and Jim Massey took me on a walk to see this building and regaled me with stories about their school years along the way. They were both completely hilarious.
I ended up serving as the NCNM AANP student rep for two years after that introduction. This gave me the opportunity to get to know Jim better. Whenever I saw him he was always very generous with his time and interested in how school was going. The night before he passed away, I found an encouraging letter he had written to me when I was a second year student. It was included in a box of photos and other memorabilia from my years at NCNM, which I had decided to put into an album.
Our conversations were rarely confined to academia or naturopathic medicine, although they sometimes veered into the politics of naturopathic medicine. But most of the time they had a meandering quality that usually covered a myriad of subjects that we both found interesting. Jim was a mammoth intellectual and it could be difficult to keep up with him. He seemed to know something about everything. I enjoyed our conversations immensely.
Jim often commented on the difference he could see in the health, energy, and vitality of the children who were raised by naturopaths utilizing our fundamental naturopathic principles. My daughter was no exception. I think he was even a little taken aback to have a 14 year old girl enthusiastically tell him how excited she was about the prospect of taking Biology in high school and participating in the dissection of a fetal pig. This was just before the first Vital Gathering.
At one point during this encounter he told us a story about his time in Kansas. He was telling the story for Caroline’s amusement, but it reminded me of Jim’s humorous side – the side I saw when I first met him and most treasure in my memories. I hope I can recount the story accurately.
While he was attending his first year at NCNM and was living in Kansas, he owned a VW Bug that had been made in England. That meant that the driver’s seat was on the opposite side. A police officer stopped him one time because it looked like no one was driving the car. The officer gave him a really bad time about the driver’s seat being on the wrong side of the car. Evidently, this spot was where the officer usually hung out watching for traffic violations. The next time Jim drove this way, he put his dog in the seat so it looked like the dog was driving. As he had expected (perhaps even hoped), the officer stopped Jim a second time. Jim argued that there was no law on record stating which side of the car the driver needed to be seated on. This irritated the officer no end even though it was true.
I don’t actually know if the story was true or if I have recounted it correctly. For all I know, Jim could have made up the whole story for my daughter’s benefit. My reason for telling the story is that it really demonstrated Jim’s wicked sense of humor and not-so-subtle disregard for undeserved authority. Both are qualities I truly appreciated about him and will miss so much. It was my honor and pleasure to work with him as a volunteer at NMI, both as a colleague and as a friend.