Jim Mohr was a star athlete who played tackle football from age 8 all the way through his sophomore year of college at Northern Arizona University. He then went on to a successful career in finance, meet his wife Lori, and have three children. Mohr was extremely high functioning for most of his life but began suffering from cognitive difficulties, anxiety, and insomnia in late 2018. On May 10, 2020, Mohr died by suicide at age 60. His children suspected he may have been suffering from CTE, so his family worked together to have his brain be studied at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank. Researchers there diagnosed him with Stage 3 (of 4) Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Lori shared Jim’s story to show how symptoms of CTE drastically changed her husband and to advocate for Flag Football Under 14.
Warning: This story contains mentions of suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
By Lori Mohr
Jim Mohr grew up in Arcadia, California in a very loving family. He was the youngest son of Ed and Janet Mohr. As a child, Jim spent his summers on Newport Beach, California where he developed his love for surfing and all water sports. Jim had the fondest of memories growing up in his family and considered them some of his best life experiences.
Jim started playing Pop Warner Football at the age of 8. An extremely gifted athlete, he excelled at this sport and quickly became a standout player. Jim LOVED the game of football. He loved the off-season weight training, practices and the camaraderie of his teammates. The combination of his raw talent, work ethic, and natural leadership abilities led him to be an exceptional high school player. Described by his teammates as a “one man wrecking ball who played with reckless abandonment,” Jim started his freshman year on varsity as both the running back and defensive back. He was also the punt receiver and played almost the entire game in every game in his four years at Arcadia High.
His accomplishments included being elected to the first team L.A. Times All-San Gabriel Valley football team in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, he scored 21 touchdowns, rushed for 1,322 yards and averaged 8.3 yards per carry. Jim was named by the L.A Times and the Pasadena Star as Running Back of the Year and All-San Gabriel Valley Defensive Back of the Year along with being selected Most Valuable Player in the Pacific League and named to the All-CIF First Team. Jim was selected to play in the Shrine All Star game, and he was elected co-captain by his teammates with John Elway. He started at both running back and defensive back, helping the North defeat the South 35-15.
Jim went on to play running back, defensive back, and punt returner for Northern Arizona University until he suffered a knee injury requiring ACL reconstruction surgery which ended his football career in his sophomore year. After graduating with a degree in finance, he moved to San Diego to begin his financial advisory career and founded the Mohr Financial Group in 1984. His genuine care for helping people, attention to detail, and unparalleled work ethic led to a very successful career. For almost four decades, Jim worked tirelessly as a financial planner to care for his beloved clients’ needs. Every day, he led by example through his dedication, work ethic and knowledge.
I met Jim in 1986. My co-worker, who was his college football teammate, introduced us. I was taken by his handsomeness, charisma, and understated confidence. I thought Jim came to our office to see his friend so I was surprised when a few weeks later he called to ask me out on our first date to the Huey Lewis and the News concert. We were instantly smitten and were married a year later!
Life with Jim Mohr was my biggest gift. I loved his passion for life, his abundance of energy, his love for adventure, his genuine kindness, compassion, and his warm laugh! As disciplined of a worker as he was, he had the ability not to take himself too seriously and made sure he scheduled in plenty of fun!
Jim loved the beach and was happiest surfing, body boarding and scuba diving. We were able to travel often and spending time with friends was important. Jim was the friend who would make sure to stay in touch with his high school and college friends and would be the organizer of their yearly reunions. He loved his annual boys surfing trips to Samoa, Fiji, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua where he was known to get barreled on a long board in the 10-14 footers acting like it was nothing! He was crazy brave.
We were blessed with three beautiful children; Michael, Kaitlin and Patrick. Raising our family was our biggest joy. Jim was very active with the kids and made sure his relationship with each of our kids was his top priority while running his business. Some of my fondest memories were all the neighborhood whiffle ball games and beach activities he organized for the kids. Jim was not only a father to our children, but as they grew up, he became a best friend and mentor as well. He was their rock and provided a supportive space as they faced life’s challenges. Our kids remark how he taught them to work hard and have a little fun, but more importantly he showed them how to treat everyone with love and kindness. Jim had a genuine way of making everyone he interacted with feel special and loved, a quality we all aim to embody in his absence. We were lucky to have such close relationships with our kids and make very happy family memories throughout the years!
In 2018, Jim and I were at a sweet spot in our lives where we were enjoying the fruits of our labors. Our children were adults and were thriving in their own lives, Jim was successfully in the process of transitioning his practice to our oldest son who had been working with him for the past several years, and we just bought a second home at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We were looking forward to enjoying all the activities that come with retirement: skiing, hiking, biking, travelling and future grandkids! Life was very happy and good.
It was in October of 2018 when Jim’s anxiety and insomnia became more frequent than in the past. We had just returned from Nevada and Jim was back in the office seeing clients. I distinctly remember one day seeing a frozen look of despair on Jim. I had never seen that look before on him. I asked what was wrong. Jim said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I get this gripping feeling of anxiety that comes out of nowhere and it’s a terrible feeling.”
Thinking the cause was situational, I told him I was sure it’s the stress of coming back to work and getting back into the work routine. I shared how I was feeling stress about that as well. Jim had an annual checkup scheduled and his doctor prescribed an anti-depressant for the anxiety. I thought this was too aggressive a treatment, but Jim asked me to support him on this decision because he wanted to give it a try.
In December of 2018, Jim said he was feeling great. 2019 was a very happy year. Our daughter got married and we were enjoying our time in Nevada setting up our new home and enjoying all the fun activities of Lake Tahoe. Life was very happy and good… until 2020.
We started a big landscape remodel project in January 2020. Jim was very excited about this and poured his energy into all the details of the planning process. He would get up early and work all day with the crew. It was a labor of love for him. Everything he did, he gave 100 percent. I started to notice that Jim was having a difficult time remembering details that were discussed even with writing them down. Jim took frequent and detailed notes his whole life, but now he was slow in actually writing the notes.
On Mondays, we would have a morning meeting with the contractors. Jim was slower in his speech delivery and in his note writing so I offered to be the note taker. He shared with me how he was having a hard time understanding all the details of the project. He kept saying he was overwhelmed and felt confused. Thinking it was situational, I told him that I was confused with all these details as well but we will learn all the new systems we were installing. Looking back, I realize that in years prior, Jim never was confused about home improvement projects. He loved all the details and enjoyed every project.
A situation occurred that I felt was a “light switch” moment. The irrigation system we installed was having a water pressure problem. It was a frustrating situation, but Jim’s reaction was so uncharacteristic of him. Jim was a “there’s no problems only solutions” type of man. He came inside, hugged me and sobbed. I was stunned at his reaction. Jim was not afraid to show emotion, but this was not the reaction I was expecting.
The world then went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and his anxiety only intensified. Normally the voice of calm reason, he was feeling intense worry about the situation. Jim was experiencing severe insomnia which seemed to amplify the anxiety. His facial expression seemed to be in a constant state of worry. The whole world was in a state of anxiousness due to the pandemic, so I hoped his intense anxiety was situational.
Jim told me he thought he had early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. He was worried about his constant state of confusion and memory loss. Having seen Jim’s beloved dad struggle with Alzheimer’s, I didn’t think that was the case because Alzheimer patients don’t know they are losing their memory. Jim’s symptoms of memory loss, confusion, anxiety, and insomnia worsened. The week prior to Jim’s death, I don’t think he slept more than two hours. I remember waking up and seeing a look of frozen horror on Jim’s face. I will never forget that look as it haunts me to this day. That was the face of severe suffering.
I began to realize there may be more to these “situational” symptoms. A few days later, Jim shared with me that as he was driving, he had to pull over because he didn’t know where he was or where he was driving to. He shared how he was fighting to control his feeling of anxiousness and it took him about 10 minutes to figure out where he was. That was when I realized I needed to pay attention and get some help. Jim agreed it was time to schedule an appointment with the doctor. I told Jim I was there to support him 100 percent.
Two days later, on May 10, 2020, Jim died by suicide. My family and I were devastated and shocked. He left a heartfelt letter which provided much insight on how he was struggling with depression, anxiety, memory loss, confusion, and pain.
Our oldest son, Michael quickly voiced his suspicions of CTE, and our family was in agreement to have his brain studied. Jim shared with Michael a few years earlier how he was worried he may suffer from CTE in the future due to all the times he “got his bell rung.”
Researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank diagnosed Jim with Stage 3 (of 4) CTE. I cannot express how grateful I am to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank study and to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The CTE finding helped me understand why Jim suffered the way he did before his death. When I was waiting for the findings, I found it so very helpful to read other Legacy Donors stories. I found similarities and differences in how CTE symptoms present. Those stories shed light on a subject I was unaware of and yet living with in plain sight. Jim hid his symptoms until he couldn’t hide them anymore as CTE took over.
So many times after hearing someone died of cancer, I see “After a brave fight, they lost the battle to cancer.” I believe all victims of CTE fight a brave fight. It’s just a battle that ultimately feels like it can’t be won at this time. As family members affected by CTE, we can help to prevent the battle. We can keep telling the stories of our loved ones.
Jim Mohr loved the game of football and he would want to save the game. Jim once said, “Living with constant anxiety is horrible and I hope none of you experience it.” Tackle CAN and SHOULD wait if we want to reduce the risk of CTE among football players.
Suicide is preventable and help is available. If you are concerned that someone in your life may be suicidal, the five #BeThe1To steps are simple actions anyone can take to help someone in crisis. If you are struggling to cope and would like some emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to connect with a trained counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available to everyone in the United States. You do not have to be suicidal to call.
Are you or someone you know struggling with lingering concussion symptoms? We support patients and families through the CLF HelpLine, providing personalized help to those struggling with the outcomes of brain injury. Submit your request today and a dedicated member of the Concussion Legacy Foundation team will be happy to assist you. Click here to support the CLF HelpLine.