James (Jim) Stewart Harris
Passed on December 20, 2021
September 12, 1932 – December 20, 2021 We are greatly saddened by the sudden passing of our beloved Jim, in his 90th year, on the evening of December 20, 2021, in the Stonewall Hospital.
Deeply grieving are his wife of 68 years, Helen, daughters Leslie Patterson (Rick), Kathy Keon (Greg), and son Cal (MaryEllen). He was predeceased by son Gordie (Daphne) on December 19, 2011. His children were a source of great pride, joy, and comfort throughout his life.
Jim was also predeceased by his brother Ted (Agnes), sister Wilda (Vernon) Jones, niece Darlene Jones Berubé and nephew Scottie Harris. Siblings surviving him are sister Donna Baldwin (Kev deceased), Carol Nichol (Dan) and brother George (Barb).
Forever missing Grandpa are nine grandchildren, seventeen great grandchildren and dozens of children throughout his life (many now grown with children of their own) who called him Grandpa Jim. He had a magical way of connecting with every child he met.
Jim was born September 12, 1932, his birth certificate location reading NE ¼ section 36-12-1W Rosser, Manitoba. His parents, Charlie & Emma (Moore) were both descendants of early Manitoba pioneer farming families and it was through the common struggle and joys of farm life that he absorbed the values of hard work, love of animals and love of the land. One of his sayings to his children as they were growing up was “Someday you’re going to have to do something you don’t want to do”, perhaps learned so well as a youth on the farm.
Having been born into the community of Grosse Isle nine days apart, no one can be sure when he first met his wife Helen Borthistle, but it surely must have been in the early thirties at some social function in the local gathering place – the upper floor of the old Red Brick School. Attending that dear old school, mutual attraction grew, and they were married in August 1953.
After leaving school Jim took up the trade of plastering and stuccoing, later becoming the trade instructor at the then Manitoba Technical Institute. When plastering gave way to drywall he was hired as salesman/trouble shooter for Westroc Industries. He later worked for Provincial Drywall. On a cold wet pre-dawn morning in the fall, he would leave a cozy, comfortable bed, get appropriately dressed and go out into the middle of a field somewhere and dig a muddy hole (called a hide) for a customer to whom he had promised a good goose-shoot that morning.
A family home was built on a small acreage in Grosse Isle in 1956. His talent for creating decorative coved ceilings and archways is preserved well there. Inevitably a barn soon appeared on the property and the children grew up enriched by the experience of life on a farm with a variety of farm birds and animals.
He partnered with his brother George in running the family farm, purchasing farmland, fondly referred to as “The Ponderosa”. On this land is located a large slough which has been converted to a protected wetland.
Jim was an enthusiastic competitor in any sport he played or coached. In his early twenties, with family to support, he gave up hockey for curling. The pinnacle was reached in 1985 when as a member of the Senior Men’s Manitoba championship team he was able to experience the excitement and pride of playing for Manitoba in the Canadian Senior Men’s Championship in Yorkton.
He never shirked hard or dirty work, one time coming home from the hall looking particularly disheveled and soiled from top to bottom. He revealed he had been in the crawl space under the hall looking for a plumbing malfunction. He was asked if he thought he would be given a medal for doing such a thing. Amazingly, Queen Elizabeth gave him a Diamond Jubilee medal for volunteerism.
Always a salesman he could even sell an idea, the greatest one being the saving of the iconic Ridgeway House and moving it to what would become the Heritage Site in Grosse Isle as an attraction for the passengers disembarking from the Prairie Dog Central each summer weekend. With the overwhelming support and energetic volunteers, it was refurbished and dedicated on the site in 2011. Several more heritage buildings have been added. In the process many strong friendships have been formed between members of our community and the wonderful people of the Vintage Locomotive Society and the dedicated volunteers who run the Prairie Dog Central.
Jim was fondly dubbed “the mayor”, “the chief” and had become the chief skunk eradicator of the town and surrounding area.
He was a mischievous “provocateur extraordinaire”, an agitator to get important things done (preferably on “Jimmy time”) and a fighter in every way. During his greatest fight with cancer, he became a source of hope, support, and comfort for the many others he knew with cancer.
A Celebration of Life will be held when feasible. Jim’s final resting place will be at the St. Michael’s Anglican Church cemetery near Grosse Isle, a few yards from where he was born.
The family is forever grateful for the kindness of the paramedics, hospital staff and Dr. Pinniger on the day of his passing and to Dr. Wong and all at Cancer Care Manitoba where Jim made many friends.
Donations in Jim’s memory can be made to the Grosse Isle Heritage Site Inc, Box 34, Grosse Isle, MB, R0C 1G0 or a charity of one’s choice.
Condolences to The Harris Family..We are grateful Jim shared much the same vision as my dad did for The Prairie Dog Central. My dad had a vision which started over a cup of coffee with a PDC volunteer at the local coffee shop when he found out the PDC was looking for a new home or faced being mothballed somewhere..Fast forward after a few meetings with the PDC board members and the RM of Rosser Reeve at the time (Allen Beachell) it was finalized that the homebase for the PDC would be established where it is today on a donated piece of land from my father..Fast forward again as years passed- Jim had a vision along with many others to establish the Heritage site at Grosse Isle at the turn around point for the PDC steam engine. Between the 2 of them(my father & Jim) and along with many others a heritage piece of Manitoba history has been able to remain in operation and bring long lasting memories to train passengers young & old , PDC members , volunteers and the residents & vendors in Grosse Isle..
I am so grateful and blessed to have Uncle Jim in my family. I can't begin to tell you what he has done for me and my siblings. After our Mother passed, Uncle Jim, Auntie Helen, and their family took in my brother and me like we were one of his own. This wasn't for a week, or a few months, this open invitation went on for years. It is a debt I could never repay, it is a love so unconditional when someone shares their family with you. I am so thankful for that upbringing. Uncle Jim was such a generous and loving man. When my sister Darlene was diagnosed with leukemia, he flew to Seattle numerous times to support and assist us through an experimental bone marrow transplant. He has been a father figure to us when we desperately needed one. Two days before he passed, he phoned and sang Happy Birthday to me. I told him I loved him and thanked him for the call. It is a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my days. Although this loss is large, Uncle Jim lives on through Auntie Helen, Leslie, Kathy, and Cal. My heart goes out to you all! With love & gratitude, thank you for sharing him with us!
Jim was well respected by everyone who met him. I'm sure going to miss him as well as everyone at the Prairie Dog Central. He touched all of our hearts more than he could ever imagine. Rest in Peace Jim.
Had coffee with Jim almost every morning for about 25 years, always one to tease you he would be the first one there every morning make the coffee and let you know how good it was. A couple of days before I went South this winter I got up extra early so I would have the coffee on for him and we would share a laugh. Ironically one of the last things he said to me was “well I’m glad now I can go to my grave knowing you actually know how to make coffee “ RIP Jim, you will be missed!
Bernie van Kemenade
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