Day 311 - Jim

Day 311 - Jim (1st person I approached)
November 07, 2014 - I spotted Jim sitting outside a coffee shop, reading a digital book, in the afternoon sunshine. It was one of those lovely, unexpectedly mild afternoons in Vancouver, that sometimes happen after a storm. First week in November and it’s pleasant enough to just have a shirt and light jacket or hoodie on. Bliss. Jim closed his electronic reader, and told me he was good to chat for a bit.


He was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“I was raised in the city, not in a rural setting. I have two younger brothers. One is two years younger and the other is eight years younger. The age difference meant I was closer to my middle brother than my youngest brother,” he said.

“Being the oldest didn’t bring any added responsibility, no.”


“I liked school. I was good at it too. I got good grades throughout school. I certainly wasn’t one of the jocks, but I was liked. I played basketball, baseball and hockey. I continued playing basketball throughout all of my schooling. I played until I was about twenty-one. We won the provincial championship. I wasn’t heading for a life as a professional sportsman, but I enjoyed sports,” he said.

“I did well in science and maths at school, so I figured I’d make a good engineer. I went to the University of Saskatchewan, right after high-school,” said Jim. 


“The first class I had was descriptive geometry. We were told to draw a house. But it had to have all the walls and floors and everything in it. If you couldn’t see a wall, it had to be represented by a dotted line. It didn’t matter what elevation you drew it from, it just had to include everything. I got so excited by this exercise, and not in a good way. I did not do well in that whatsoever. The next class, the following week, we had to use a quill-type pen. It had like a double claw on the end, and we had to use a bottle of ink to dip it into. We were told to write out the alphabet, and draw straight lines to use as guides for writing the letters on. We also had to draw circles. Well, by the end of the lesson, mine looked like a Rorschach test, you know, with blobs of ink all over it. What a mess,” he said, throwing his hands up in the air, laughing.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of money, and I had gotten a student loan. I had paid my tuition for the year, so I stayed in engineering for the year. Then I left university, knowing Engineering wasn’t what I was cut out to do,” he told me.


Jim said he needed to find work.

“I was walking down the street in Saskatoon, and I saw an insurance office. I went in and applied for a job, and they hired me. I figured I’d do that for a year or so, and then go back to school and study business. I was in insurance for forty-seven years,” he said.

“I worked for that company for ten years. I was able to advance rather quickly. I also went to the University of Regina as a part-time student and got a diploma in Business Administration. After ten years, I had reached a plateau. The next level would be an executive role, but I was only twenty-eight. A position came up and I put my name forward. They said I was too young and not experienced enough, which I guess was true, and they gave the position to someone else,” said Jim.


“A fellow I knew who owned an insurance brokerage in town sought me out. He told me he needed to sell his business and asked if I knew of anyone that might be interested. I said I did, but that the person I knew didn’t have any money. He asked me to set up a meeting,” Jim said, with a wry smile. That person was Jim.

“I bought the brokerage. My plan was to stay with that for five years and get as much experience as I could. Seventeen years later, I sold it. It was a wonderful opportunity. I walked into something that already had the relationships established. I just needed to foster and continue to grow those connections. Working in a smaller market like Saskatoon, you get to know the people you’re working with. I loved that,” he said.


A large national insurance company approached Jim, offering him position based in Toronto (Ontario).

“I took the job. It was another good opportunity. I was working with the underwriters. Then I went to Halifax (Nova Scotia), and eventually transferred out here to Vancouver,” said Jim. That was twenty years ago.

“I've been retired for eleven years,” he told me.

“It was tough to adjust at first. I was used to being involved in all the decision making and the business aspects. It took some time to get used to it. I liked what I did for work.”


“I’ve been married for fifty-four years. We have four children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.” There is the loveliest smile on his entire face when Jim tells me about his family. It is clear they are of great importance to him.

“We like to travel. We started organizing family vacations, involving everyone. Every two years we do something, the entire group. One year we took everyone on a cruise to Alaska. We’ve gone out east where one of my daughters lives. We’ve taken everyone to Whistler, and then we did Banff two years after that. We’ve done Mexico as well. We take everyone, all twenty-two of us. My wife does all the organizing, she’s good at that. In truth as everyone gets older, it gets easier. All we have to do is get them there and book accommodations. Then everyone makes up their own itinerary. If they want to golf all day, then that’s what they do. If they want to lay by the pool, it’s up to them. And we all eat dinner together, when we can,” said Jim. 


“It’s wonderful to sit back and watch not only the memories that are being created for the kids and grandchildren and great grandchildren, but it’s also about the memories my wife and I are creating for ourselves, “ he said.

“We love to travel, just my wife and I as well. We’ve been to ninety countries, and in fact our next cruise that we’re doing, will take us to another five countries. I’ve always wanted to hit that one hundred countries visited, so we’re getting close,” he says. Jim and his wife used to think nothing of heading out on excursions when they were younger, and flying from destination to destination, moving around. Now they enjoy the ease of a cruise.

“We don’t have to keep packing and unpacking and transferring. It’s just an easier way to travel," he says.


He tells me out of all the cities he’s lived in, Vancouver is the best.

“The climate and the people and the food. There are so many good restaurants here. It’s a progressive city, and the ability to walk on all the amazing paths and trails and the seawall. And I mean it’s not just the weather, but here it is November and we’re sitting outside in the sunshine.” I asked Jim what he was reading when I approached him. He opened his Kobo reader and had to look up the title.

“It’s some garbage really. I read another book by this author and thought I’d give this one a try, but it’s not so good. But if I start a book, then I finish it. I used to read a lot of documents and things for work, and now I spend my time reading a lot of garbage books. I’ve only ever once not finished a book because I didn't like it.” #notastranger