A life well lived; the words seem like a cliché. But in the case of Jim Ballantyne they are dead on. If the measure of a man is the number of friends that he accumulates during a lifetime, then Jim had the full measure. He touched everyone he met with a gap-toothed grin, a hearty hello, and a funny joke (you would even laugh at the ones you’d heard before).
He was a local character on an island full of characters and was featured numerous times on the front page of the Driftwood chasing sheep in his kilt or reciting poetry about Haggis – all part of the fun of the Saltspring Pipes and Drums’ annual Robbie Burns Night.
He was born in Windsor, Ontario – a surprise to many who thought he was a true, blue Scot. His mother got homesick and dragged the family across the pond in the ‘30s and he grew up in Paisley, Scotland during the war developing a life-long habit of eating oatmeal with salt instead of then-scarce sugar. He never forgot his heritage and was happy to don his kilt and played in pipe bands across the country from Brantford to Brandon and Whitehorse to Salt Spring. But he was Canadian through and through, returning to Brantford in 1947 to work as a draughtsman- as soon after the war as he could.
Upon learning his mother was to follow him back to Canada, he promptly joined the RCMP and shipped out for training in Regina. His 25-year career with the Mounties defined him. But general duty in a comfortable detachment was not for him. He spent 10 years in the Northwest Territories of the 1950’s – living in remote settlements like Fort Liard, Fort Simpson and his favourite, Fort Reliance – mushing dogs to patrol the tundra barren lands and the still nomadic Dene hunting communities. It was the frontier life of Sgt. Preston, lived large with big adventures and the unique inhabitants of the north.
After meeting his love, Caroline (known as Sandi to almost everyone except her family), in Yellowknife, they settled to the relative metropolis of Fort Providence on the McKenzie River and life on the frontier with miners, trappers and the local Dene. Then as the Mounties like to do, Jim and Sandi were transferred – this time to more southerly postings in Ottawa where he was trained in Ident – today’s crime scene investigation (and where Richard was born) – then on to Edmonton (Stuart showed up here), Whitehorse, Brandon and finally Burnaby in 1967.
The west coast particularly appealed to both Jim and Sandi. They joined the Jib Set, learned to sail, and bought a small sailboat. From that Jim started on a love of the ocean that lasted the rest of his life. From small boats to large, racing and cruising with characters such as Geoff Coleman, Jim Rhodes, Doug Barnett, Jim Heaney and many others; he was well known inside yachting circles as a great person to have on board. He served as the Commodore of the Burnaby Power Squadron, Gulf Yacht Club and Salt Spring Island Sailing Club and worked as a yacht broker for C&C yachts after his retirement from the Mounties in 1974.
In 1981 he found his new calling – managing a marina on Salt Spring Island for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club – and Jim and Sandi adapted quickly to island life. On Salt Spring, he became a fixture, well known in the community from serving on the Park and Rec Commission, having fun with the Shriners and local Lodge, and involvement with the local Legion branch – being elected several terms as Treasurer. He was easily persuaded to get involved with the high-jinks of friends like Phil Hume, Art Hopping, John Woodward, John Williamson and their ilk. He made friends easily and had a steady source of stories and jokes for the people at Thrifty’s and everyone around town. When he moved to Maple Ridge in 2011 for health reasons, his absence was felt immediately on the island.
He was bombastic, he was opinionated, he was politically incorrect and he did not suffer fools. But above else, he was friendly and very funny. And that is how he would want to be remembered.
He loved his family – Sandi, Stuart and Richard – and welcomed the addition of daughters-in-law Terry and Kim. He became close to grand-daughters Kate and Maddy and enjoyed life as the Grumps – so named after an unfortunate diaper incident. They will all miss Grumps and the joy he brought to their lives.
No flowers and he preferred giving his time and energy, rather than money, to charitable organizations (if you feel you must, the Saltspring Pipers and Drummers Association or the Salt Spring Farmers’ Institute are always happy for support). But please gather your best friends, have a glass of Glenmorangie single malt in his memory, and share a good joke. A wake will take place in September.