The son of an army captain, who was badly injured in WWII, Jim, and his three sisters, moved around a fair bit when they were young.
“South Western Ontario was a nice place to grow up,” Jim explained.
The family lived in Sarnia and St. Thomas (where Jim was born). Jim’s dad was a jeweller and worked for People’s Credit Jewellers, which meant several moves, including Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Jim, an avid swimmer, was on the high school team and was instrumental in the team winning the State championships, during his high school years. The family relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, but after a bit of time it was evident the racial issues of the South East U.S., were in direct opposition to the Canadian family’s views. They decided to move back to Canada, settling in Kingston.
Jim finished high school and met his sweetheart, Barb, whom he later married.
“I knew she was the one,” Jim said. “And now, 53 years later, I’m still certain.”
After school, Jim looked for a job and found a maintenance position at DuPont, in Kingston.
“The job was menial, but the education it gave me was immense.”
It was not long until Jim’s ambition was recognized and he moved into the operations end of the business, quickly advancing to foreman, with a crew of 28 people reporting to him. He was only 21.
Determination and drive were Jim’s middle names, and in December of 1968 he was offered a post in customer service. The promotion meant a move to Toronto and, when Jim told Barb, she was devastated. Her entire life had been in Kingston, and although Toronto was only a few hours away, it may as well have been a million miles.
On January 1, 1969 Jim started his new job, and Barb and Jim, along with their two children, moved to Scarborough. Jim did very well in his position, but was offered a much more responsible opportunity in the tire division. He moved to the 26th floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre.
Jim had always hoped for a position in sales, and when the chance arose he jumped at it. DuPont was big in the carpet fibre business, and Jim’s territory was Canada. Jim’s success was recognized by the firm, and he was asked to grow the company’s small carpet business. Jim accepted and, along with another person, grew that division to well over $100 million in revenue. The company asked Jim to relocate to Montreal. They sold their house and purchased one in Beaconsville.
One of Jim’s clients, Coronet Carpets, was trying to expand and the president of the company offered JIM a senior position, with opportunities that could not be ignored. After 17 years with DuPont, and never moving into their Montreal home, Jim changed careers and grew to become Executive Vice President with Coronet, a job from which he retired in 2011.
The Brady’s moved to Port Perry in 2000 and loved the town. Jim felt it was time to give back and wanted to put his working knowledge to good use. In 2012 he joined the Rotary, knowing there would be great opportunities to get involved in the community.
Rotary was formed in 1905, and now boasts 1.2 million members around the world. Their biggest claim to fame was the almost total eradication of polio, through constant fundraising and dedication.
Jim was elected president in July and quickly stepped up to the plate. Prior to his term as head Rotarian, he ran the very effective food drive, as well as the annual golf tournament at Royal Ashburn, one of the club’s major fundraisers. He received the coveted Paul Harris award, established in 1957, to show appreciation to outstanding members and their achievements.
Jim assisted with the pancake breakfast at Sunnybrae Golf Club, which was very successful, but wanted to establish a fundraiser in order to fulfil a commitment to the Port Perry Hospital Foundation. The long running Aquarama was losing interest, so two teams, under the direction of Dave Cash, were formed to explore new events: music in the park or a possible Ribfest.
The Ribfest won, and with the help of neighbouring communities, it was hailed as a huge success. “We had over 21,000 people through the gates and were very pleased with the results,” Jim explained.
Along with co-chair, Michael Stewart, Jim and the team paid close attention to detail. Tables were constantly wiped and refuse was separated into recycling bins by volunteers. They even brought a falconer in, to keep the seagulls at bay. Five Ribbers accompanied 23 other vendors, all positioned around the 994 chairs at 134 tables. 170 volunteers were there to guarantee a flawless event, and 12 bands entertained the crowds.
The event was successful. On August 31st Jim and fellow Rotarians and their spouses presented a cheque of $25,000 to the Port Perry Hospital Foundation. Another presentation was made to the Hospital Auxiliary, of more than $8,000, from donations at the gate. The money will go toward increasing the comfort of patients and their families.
I asked Jim if the Ribfest will be an annual event. He smiled, and I saw the gleam in his eyes. It will be up to Rotary, as there is a great deal of work involved, but …
The entire town is grateful to Jim Brady and the Rotarians for all they do. If you are interested in learning more about the organization, email Jim, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit rotaryclubofportperry.com.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author, columnist and key-note speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com