Posted by Editoress on 03/6/03
A friend called Jim
I first met Jim in the mid-1980's just before I was elected to Chair the Racing Committee of the Ontario Cycling Association.
Shortly thereafter, I took a Commissaire Course in a class that included such notables as Rob Jones, Tim Farrar and Jocelyn Lovell. As anyone who has taken one of Jim's courses knows, he taught through reminiscing and story telling which would cause him to take a lot of 'ribbing' over the years. Jim's passion for the track was obvious to all that weekend.
He explained how riders would get a quick start on the track by watching the air in the cheeks of the official before blowing the whistle. I called out, ' my Dad always told me that'. Jim was tickled pink and we became firm friends through thick and thin. He delighted in recalling the story to my sister when he met her at Piers and Kim's wedding.
For the next few years, I took to organizing the Ontario Track Championships and Track League. The program grew from a few stalwarts to Championships of over 100 riders that took three days to run. Jim was one of the driving forces behind this success. He was always there. He helped the riders. He helped the officials. And he helped the organizing team. In his quiet way, he taught and supported us all. This is evident in the national and international successes of our riders and the development of commissaires up the scale to higher places.
You never had to go very far with Jim to realize he was well loved. Yes, there were disagreements (heated at times) and grouses but Jim was one of the most respected officials in Canada. He could diffuse situations by talking things out with those involved and was always 'for the rider' first, for which he was often to take criticism from the authorities. He understated his position at events and quietly orchestrated everything to make it work. He was not always successful as those of you who were at the Hamilton event, which was won by Francesco Moser, will recall. But even then, everyone left happy at the end of the day including Moser who must have needed about four suitcases to pack his haul of Lire. I have never seen so much money piled up in cash.
When we were developing the Ontario Cup, Jim tried his hand at organizing a road race. He was very proud of his accomplishments until the eve of the race when he drove me (as Chief Commissaire of the event) around the course for approval. I told him I was going home. Eventually, we turned the course around the other way and the Turkey Point Road Race was born. Now, things were easier in those days, which is just as well as we needed permission. At 10p.m, we knocked on the door of the local OPP office. The doors were locked because they were counting the enormous haul of marijuana found in a tobacco field that day and they had a screaming drunk in the cells. Officer Peter Penman Jnr, came to the door Ã‹â€ we explained Ã‹â€ we got permission. Race day was great.
Jim was an extremely generous man and he would help anybody for the sport of cycling. Every year, both he and Joe DeMaeyer drove all the way to Georgian Bay from Delhi to work and help me with the Ontario Cup, Ravenna Road Race gratis then turn around and drive home. This is just my story. Many of you have your own.
As ORC Chair and Chief Commissaire, we worked together very closely with daily communication and planning. We worked many events together and he was the Chief for events I organized including the Blue Mountain Classic, the 1995 National Road Championships and the Vanwood Series in 1996. When working outside of the province, Jim, whilst remaining completely neutral, took a great interest in the provincial team and usually his report back to me was more accurate than that of the team manager!
He was loved and respected by the riders not only from Ontario but also across Canada and the United States. At the recent Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, so many riders stopped to speak to him that it was hard to tell what nationality he really was.
Whilst Jim was definitely of the 'old school' he accepted change and met the challenges. He was one of the founding members of the Canadian College of Commissaires and its Secretary but, upon its demise, he willingly accepted a position on the Technical Commission alongside myself, Brian Jolly, Louise Lalonde and Pierre Gagne and looked forward.
His peers should tell of the role he played in the development of Canadian cycling as part of the 'British Mafia' during the days of the Canadian Wheelmen. I only heard the stories, which were actually very helpful in putting the jigsaw puzzle of the sport together.
Jim was a master carpenter serving his apprenticeship with an Undertaker in Cockney London. He used to ride his track bike home to lunch every day with his official coat tails blowing in the breeze. In fact, Jim was proud to boast that he never ever rode a bike with brakes. He only ever owned a track bike. When he first came to Canada he would ride from Toronto to Delhi and back every weekend on his track bike with no brake - quite an accomplishment.
Jim's work with wood brought him closer to many of us in his retirement days as he spent his summers on one project or another Ã‹â€ Louise Lalonde's basement, Bill Wild's house, my dining room doors and many others. He was an accomplished whittler and crafted some wonderful artifacts. He was also passionate about model railways and his basement in Delhi housed his railroad. Jim chaired the Board of the Tobacco Museum in Delhi for many years until it was closed being deemed politically incorrect. He was often teased about this but took it in good part and, being an avid practical joker, was quick to get his own back.
After one CCA AGM, I remember boarding the plane ahead of him and standing aghast as he told the attendant that then National Coaches, Des Dickie and Karen Strong (also boarding with us), were his son and daughter and he was to be told if they misbehaved.
We were on a shuttle bus en route to the airport once from another CCA AGM when he asked if he could borrow my powder puff. The then President of the Manitoba Cycling Association, Jan Boning, was in the seat in front and the reflection of the sun shining through the window onto Jan's follicly challenged head was 'hurting' Jim's eyes. He proceeded to powder Jan's bald spots to reduce the glare. I often wonder what Jan's family thought when he arrived home smelling of face powder.
On the last day of the Winnipeg Pan Am Games, some of the team of commissaries waited in our van while Jim wrapped up his last bit of paperwork in Race HQ. Suddenly, the doors of the van shut themselves, and then opened, and then shut. This went on for several minutes until we demanded to know who had the keys and what were they doing. No one in the van (including the driver) was guilty. Jim had the keys and orchestrated the entire prank from inside the building grinning from ear to ear as he watched out of the window.
Pay back time did come though. The Technical Commission was meeting in Ottawa one weekend and Louise Lalonde announced that she was going to introduce Jim to Japanese food at supper time Ã‹â€ something to which he agreed with some trepidation. There were five of us Ã‹â€ Jim, Louise, Brian Jolly, Claire Bonin and myself. Dutifully we all took off our shoes, took our places and enjoyed a sumptuous meal selected by Louise and Claire. When we left the restaurant, Jim took a last trip to the 'little boys room' and we waited outside on the street. He came out laughing and looking totally helpless having slipped into his shoes but not waiting to tie the laces. Brian said, 'Don't worry Grandad. I'll do them up for you.' And he did Ã‹â€ the left lace to the right shoe and vice versa. Jim was hogtied in the middle of Ottawa on a Saturday night and we all nearly got arrested for disturbing the peace with our hooting and hollering.
There are many more stories. As you read this, you will probably think of some of your own. Being with Jim was never boring for most of us.
So now we bid this friend and cycling colleague 'Adieu'. We remember his passion for the sport, his diligence and dedication, his enthusiasm and his support in difficult times. We remember that he, too, had difficult times and survived them. It never stopped him loving the sport.
In that Jim kept his recent health problems quiet from even those closest to him so that his passing has been quite a shock, we have to gain comfort in thinking that he wanted us to remember him as he was then, not as a sick man. He has gone to join those of the cycling fraternity that went before him and of whom he often talked.
We have lost a good friend, a family member, a mentor and supporter. I will miss that cheery voice that he always used in greeting especially on the phone Ã‹â€ 'Hi Val' was all he said. It was Jim
Go in peace, Jim. Just remember that God is Chief Judge. We will miss you but your memory will live on in our hearts until we meet again. God Bless and thank you.
March 6th, 2003
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