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His Best Years Were Treating World-Wide Refugees as Family Members

Volume 31, Issue 1,2 & 3, March 21, 2017

A proud Jim Jamieson, one of the founders of Island Catholic News, points to the latest edition displayed in his St. Andrew Refugee Association storefront window at 844 View St. Pictured with his son, Patrick, editor of ICN which was housed upstairs in the building donated rent-free by St. Vincent de Paul Society, 1988.

     My father James Easton Jamieson died in his 95th year on January 22. He had what the writer JM Cameron described as a good death. He was at peace with the final process and within himself, all his earthly affairs in good order, surrounded by family and loved ones to his last moments and at one with his God in terms of the dictates of his conscience and religious faith.
     The Catholic cathedral was full at his funeral which is quite remarkable given his age when his wife and closest associates from youth and family of origin were all passed on. It’s true he made fast friends until the very end among people of all ages. For example, he was able to stay in his own home until four months prior to his death and new neighbours in his condo building were taking him out to dinner and visiting him in his new residence during his final months.
     It’s true that Jim Jamieson was never happier than when he had a fair damsel on his arm. His wife of 64 happy years Margaret predeceased him by ten years and this was not a change he even expected nor in any way welcomed during his last decade. A dapper dresser and always a ladies man and an old-fashioned-style perfect gentleman. Even his outdated terms of affection in these politically correct times stayed safely within the bounds of propriety within a charming happy-making sensibility. At least most of us thought so.
     On one level Jim Jamieson was a product of his generation and times. As my brother stated in his moving visionary eulogy (see page one) he could be said to represent the greatest generation of a heroic and golden era. Their code was an heroic level of self-sacrifice.
     What made him stand out even within that assumed cultural assumption was his moral development in the context of outreach to others and social justice standards of the highest order.
A humble man, an uneducated one by the standards today, he always had a feeling for the little person, the underdog and those in need. Through his temperament he was inclined to help. Through his religious faith he was able to act upon his inclinations.
     He always had to be busy which became a difficulty as his physical frame failed to keep pace with his moral, spiritual and mental comprehension during his last five years.
     And he was also able to act on these heroic instincts by helping to make the person feel better about themselves. This went on post-retirement here in Victoria for four decades. He retired from thirty-seven and half years in the Canadian military service, largely in peacekeeping roles in Cyprus, Korea and every region of ‘this great country’ as he always referred to Canada. He had an endearing naivete and a can-do attitude that never quit.
      His major work and the reason the cathedral was full at his funeral was the refugee sponsorship work he did from 1979 until the time of his death. In 1979 Bishop Remi De Roo called upon Catholics to open their hearts and homes and wallets for the Vietnamese boat people. Jim and The St. Andrew Refugee Association (SARA) sponsored a family of seven.
     This symbolic gesture of doing more than what was asked became the tenor of SARA for thirty years. When he went down to the immigration office to apply for sponsorships he would be asked: "How many this time, Mr. Jamieson?"
     In his final weeks he was still focused on getting a Burundian family into Canada despite the preposterous sponsorship costs compared to when he was sponsoring hundreds of families and individuals during the 1980s, 90s, and beyond.
     When he retired to Victoria with Margaret in the late 1970s, it was to realize his life-time dream of having his own business, a watch repair and jewelry shop on Fisgard in the Masonic Lodge building. His might have been the only such shop in Victoria selling Knights of Columbus tickets from a table beneath the keys to the Masonic Lodge offices above. He was trusted on every front.
     Of course any staff he hired were from among the people SARA  sponsored. His long term jewelry and watch repairman Cahn Ho set up his own shop after dad retired. He always kept a photo of my parents prominently displayed on the counter top until he retired himself at the age of 65 last Christmas. Dad’s annual Christmas outing with Cahn to Mings for Chinese Food supper was his last real outing.
     There is a nice balance and propitious to that which symbolized my father’s entire graced existence. Like the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields he worried little about tomorrow because he knew it was all taken care of in the grand scheme of things.
     As they say, we are not likely to see his like again soon.
     James Easton Jamieson – Rest in Eternal Peace.