Sixty years of service

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist salutes a long-time colleague

This winter, Rotarians from around District 5080 gathered to pay tribute to long-time Rotarian, Jim Lamont.  He has put in a lifetime of service to Rotarian initiatives, and yet in his 80s he is still going strong. There’s hardly a local or District event that Jim and his wife Inga aren’t involved with in some way.

Jim tells everyone that he never sought out Rotary. He was asked to join the new club that was being formed in Castlegar in 1954. Jim had just gone into business with his own garage when a Rotarian from Trail stopped in to see him. Jim was hoping he stopped to get gasoline, but the fellow simply commanded Jim to get to the formative meeting.

So Jim went to the meeting and became a charter member of the first Castlegar Rotary Club. Sixty years later he is still a Rotarian, although he has switched to the Sunrise 2000 Rotary Club. He was a charter member of the Sunrise Club when it formed in 1999-2000. His service has included 44 years to the original club, 14 years to the new club, and two years at the University Rotary Club in Victoria during 1988-90.

Jim is recognized within Rotarian ranks as a marvelous raconteur or story-teller because of the detail and humour he adds to a story.

He often tells of how he and fellow Rotarian, Ron Ross, attended a Rotary meeting in Martinique in the Caribbean.

They found the hotel and took the clinking and clanking elevator to the hotel’s fifth floor and arrived at 12:15, the starting time for the Rotary meeting. About 12:30 another Rotarian arrived to do a make-up as well. He turned out to be a Rotarian from Campbell River. No one else appeared.

All the tables were set, glasses were filled with ice water, and a circle of flags was ready at the head table. In the corner was a bar with a sign that said “Help yourselves.” So Jim and Ron poured themselves a rum punch from a large pitcher and waited for the local Rotarians to show up.  At 1:00 they all appeared. Apparently, they were always that late in starting their meetings.

Jim and Ron paid $24 each for their barbecued chicken dinner, but the beauty of it was that the drinks kept coming. They had French champagne to toast their attendance at the meeting. That was followed by excellent white and red wine. After lunch, first-rate brandy was the order of the day, and with the help of translators, Jim and Ron chatted with their hosts for most of the afternoon.

At 4:30, they realized they had a ship to catch, and fairly inebriated, they wound their way through the town and just beat the gangplank being raised.

The highlight of his Rotary career as far as he can pin it down was leading the Group Study Exchange to Norway in 1983. On that trip, he realized that doors opened to him that would not be possible without Rotary. In Bergen, he met the Crown Prince of Norway before he became King.

Jim and his group had the privilege of visiting the summer home of the legendary Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. Jim remembers how awesome it felt to sit in one of Grieg’s favourite chairs.

A close second in terms of highlights was the time Jim spent on Ambassadorial scholarships within District 5080.  He loved the interviews with some of the brightest students available in the District.

What is not as well-known is that Jim has spent 57 years as a Mason, and he and his wife Inga have served as Red Cross disaster volunteers for over 25 years.

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