Jim was born in Lansing‚ Michigan and lived in a rural surrounding area while growing up. After graduating from high school‚ he entered Barber College in Detroit. He passed his State Barber Licensing Boards‚ and began working at the Golden Shear in Mason‚ Michigan. He later purchased the barbershop and continued to work there until announcing his retirement the end of June 2001.
Jim was married to his high school sweetheart‚ Barb‚ in April of 1964. A month later he joined the City of Mason Volunteer Fire Department. He received his training for this new job the old fashioned way‚ on the job. Jim thoroughly enjoyed this new on call position and would respond any time the call went out. This often caused the customer sitting in his barber chair to have to reschedule an appointment or rely on another barber to finish a haircut. It also meant that many social and family events were often interrupted‚ but Jim was living his dream.
Jim worked his way from firefighter through the positions of First Lieutenant‚ Assistant Chief and then became the Mason Fire Chief. He was always looking for ways to educate the public on fire safety. He became a Certified Fire Inspector and would often be invited by local businesses to give suggestions on improving fire safety in their establishments. Safety for firefighters was another of the concerns most pressing on his mind and he worked hard to get proper training and equipment to support them. Jim was instrumental in implementing a variety of training programs‚ including ice rescue‚ hazardous materials handling and vehicle extrication training. Jim’s vision of ‘looking to the future’ was realized when as Chief‚ he oversaw the building of a new fire station in Mason. The purchase of the department’s first aerial platform truck soon followed. Jim dedicated many hours to both projects‚ assuring that the department would be ready to respond in any situation.
Although his time was always occupied‚ Jim enjoyed children and would often stop whatever he was working on to give tours of the fire station. He believed in early fire safety education and would also visit the local elementary schools‚ sometimes offering a ride on the department’s fire engine. He always welcomed local Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups in need of a fire safety lesson to accomplish a merit badge and often took the time to teach ‘the lesson himself. No matter what the question‚ it was never left unanswered.
Jim was a man of many talents. He loved to spend relaxation time in his home workshop doing woodcarvings. His doll cradles‚ children’s rocking chairs‚ and cedar chests have been enjoyed by the many family and friends who received them as gifts.
He was also an avid hunter and fisherman. He loved to bow hunt in the Fall and spend time fishing in the Spring and Summer. He would always work in a Fall hunting or Winter camping trip with his long time friend‚ Kit. They both enjoyed sharing this experience with their own sons from the time they were five years old.
Jim was a dedicated friend. He was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed help‚ no matter what the situation. He would volunteer to organize a work crew‚ order or pick up any materials and still be the first one there‚ hammer in hand‚ ready to begin the job. There are many people who have benefited from this talent and who will remember his kindness.
Jim was an involved community member. He was a life time member of the Mason Optimist Club; co-founder of the Mason Free-Style Wrestling Club; a member of the Michigan Fire Chiefs Association‚ the Alert Fire Association‚ the Tri-County Chiefs Association‚ the Ingham County Fire Chiefs Association‚ the 911 Board and for 37-1/2 years‚ a proud member of the Mason Fire Department.
Jim and his wife were also realizing another dream come true with the purchase of land near Houghton Lake in northern Michigan. Jim’s continued vision of ‘looking to the future’ included the building of a log cabin for his family. The property had many mature red pines‚ which were harvested and with the help of many family and friends were cut‚ peeled‚ shaped and stacked in preparation for construction. Jim was in his glory as he was able to see the main structure go up just prior to his untimely death.
Jim is survived by his wife of 37-1/2 years‚ Barb. They have two sons‚ James C. and fiancee‚ Rachael‚ David L. and wife Rose; two granddaughters‚ Caitlin and Ann; parents‚ Carl and Naomi; sister and brother in law‚ Kay and Bob Lerch; brother and sister in law‚ Gerry and Lyanne Pelton; along with many nieces‚ nephews and great nieces and nephews.