December 3, 1935 – January 14, 2012
… Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
… Do not go gentle into that good night.
… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas (who understood)
John James of Calgary passed away Saturday morning in an uncharacteristically gentle manner, but not before he’d savoured every drop of life and fought hard to stay at the party. He waged a heroic battle with cancer for 12 years, but refused to let it mellow his rip-roaring approach to life. It’s hard to imagine a world in which J.J. is not cooking, laughing, exploring or telling stories – there was never a lull in the action when J.J. was around.
In a 2005 article, J.J.’s beloved granddaughter, journalist Amber Webb-Bowerman, celebrated the seemingly unstoppable force that was her grandpa. Amber, who predeceased J.J. in 2008, had captured his spirit in print: “As far as I’m concerned, every family worth its salt includes a colourful, larger-than-life character. For our family, that’s J.J.” Even in his final days, J.J. sparked delighted smiles and raised eyebrows with his humour, personal magnetism and unusual tattoo.
John Chambers James was born in Eston, Saskatchewan, where his father, Frederick, was a station agent for the CPR; John’s mother Louise was a nurse in Eston. As a young man in the 1950s, J.J. began a career in seismic exploration. He became a true seismic hero whose achievements and exploits were legendary in the field.
J.J. met Dolores Murray in Sundre, Alberta in 1958. John, Dolores and their daughters embarked on a life of adventure and discovery that took them around the world, but Calgary remained their home base.
A sojourner in far-flung, often remote areas of the globe with his seismic crews, J.J. saw and did most anything a man could see and do. In Amber’s words, he would “regale anyone within earshot with bigger-than-life tales of adventure/debauchery in Peru, Egypt, Spain, Singapore, Australia – the list goes one and on….”
A man of many facets, J.J. was a Reiki master, winemaker and collector (his house is filled with rocks, fossils, antiques, and curiosities from around the world – a personal hoard to make a curator envious). John loved to work with his hands, and was a skilled handyman. He once owned one of the original food trucks in Calgary, J.J.’s Roadkill Café, and his achievements in the kitchen created lasting memories; we will not see the like of his award-winning Sizzling Sphincter hot sauce again. J.J.’s deep-fried turkey, fluffy biscuits and amazing spaghetti sauce were among the many dishes created to feed the crowd that seemed to gather spontaneously when he was cooking. John loved to welcome others into his home and somehow managed to make every guest feel his or her presence was a particular delight. His genius for making friends wherever he went ensured there was always something stirring – on the stove as well as in his life.
Family and friends surrounded J.J. throughout his final journey, which he fought valiantly, without complaint and with his customary humour. J.J. is lovingly remembered by daughters Brenda (Bill) Kollias of Lethbridge, Susan Webb of Calgary, Lolly James (Keith) Fletcher of Calgary, and Laura James of Calgary. Adjusting to life without Grandpa are Jonny Webb of Calgary, Kostas Kollias of Lethbridge, Anna (Scott) Mundell and JJ.’s great-grandson, Logan James Mundell, of Pincher Creek. J.J. is also lovingly remembered by special friend Kay Sulek of Calgary, and his two brothers and a sister: Edward (Lois) James of Rapid City, SD; Virginia Rhinehart of Sun Valley, ID; and Frieda (Barry) Tibbitt of Eston, SK.
Like a meteor that hurtled through the sky and over horizon, J.J. has left us, but goes on: death reunites him with his “Sapphire” (Amber), and his beloved Dolores, to trade stories and laughter once more.
J.J.’s family would like to thank the wonderful staff at Southwood Intercare Hospice and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for their excellent and compassionate care.
As J.J. requested, a joyous celebration of his life will take place this spring: email firstname.lastname@example.org for info. J.J will be cremated and interred at Union Cemetery with Amber, Dolores and Grandma Jesse. Tributes, as well as memories of his uproarious escapades, may be forwarded to McInnis and Holloway at www.mcinnisandholloway.com. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation at www.amberbowerman.ca will be gratefully accepted: the legacy continues.
Thanks for the adventure, Daddy! We love you and miss you.
In living memory of John James, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 ELBOW DRIVE S.W. Telephone: (403)243-8200Print This Obituary & Condolences