A man whose keen smile matched his fun-loving spirit, James Andrew Skikos died July 3 of complications from pancreatic cancer, with which he was diagnosed in March.
He was 60 and died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Skikos was born Sept. 5, 1953, in Ogden, Utah, where his grandfather and father were in the produce business. He was 8 years old when his parents moved to Sonoma County, where his father, Andy Skikos, would open Andy’s Produce in Sebastopol.
Skikos attended Cardinal Newman High School but transferred to Montgomery High School so that he could play football.
“Jimmy had a real hard nose,” said Kelly Kline of Santa Rosa, a teammate.
Both Skikos and Kline were new transfers to Montgomery and they bonded quickly.
“We were both a couple of scared kids,” Kline said.
Skikos graduated from high school in 1971 and went to St. Mary’s College in Moraga to play football. But it wasn’t long before he tired of classes and when Kline broke a wrist, rendering him unable to play, the two lit off for Europe on a backpacking trip.
“He was a free spirit; it was hard to contain him sometimes,” said Skikos’ wife, Jane Skikos. The couple, who married in 1981, separated in 2003 but remained close friends.
In Europe, Skikos and Kline bought a Volkswagen Beetle and drove it around the continent for six weeks — from Germany to Amsterdam, through Switzerland, to Rome. Along the way, Skikos passed down some secrets of the produce trade.
“Produce ain’t worth nothing when it starts to turn, so you have to get rid of it. You better know how to sell them and how to buy them,” Kline said.
“Jimmy Skikos taught Kelly Kline the art of negotiating,” said Kline, who still owns a watch that he bought outside the Vatican after Skikos bargained it down from $20 to $6.
Back in the United States, Skikos went to work for a San Francisco produce store, then, in the mid-1970’s, joined his parents’ company, managing their store in Sacramento. He loved the business and spent most of his years in it in Sonoma County, as a buyer.
“He was a people person,” said daughter Arianna Skikos of Sebastopol.
“Very business savvy,” said his other daughter, Alexandria Skikos, also of Sebastopol.
“He could sell ice to an Eskimo,” said Arianna Skikos.
A mischievous man — “He was like a 16-year-old boy,” Arianna Skikos said — Skikos loved sports, ping pong, and music ranging from Jethro Tull to The Beatles to Santana.
“He played a mean piano” said Jane Skikos.
“Air piano,” Alexandra Skikos added.
Survivors also include his parents, Andy and Kathrin Skikos of Sebastopol; his son, Aaron DeBacker of Rohnert Park; his brother, Chris Skikos of Sebastopol; and his sisters Julie Kozlowski of Sebastopol, and Kim Heing and Shelley Klucznik, both of Santa Rosa.
Visitation is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday followed by a 7 p.m. rosary service at Daniels Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Ave., in Santa Rosa. A memorial service is 11 a.m. Friday at Resurrection Church, 303 Stony Point Road