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The Embodiment of Rotary
Because he was a nice, nice guy and a really great friend, Jim Russell offered countless times to take notes for me if I ever needed to miss a meeting. So I took him up on his offer this week and therefore I don’t know what happened this week. So Jim, I have no choice but to write about you.
Jim joined Rotary in 1990 when he was almost 30. He had just moved back to Cape Elizabeth with his new wife Vicke to go into business selling janitorial supplies with his father. I didn’t know him then but I presume he joined Rotary for the same reason that Paul Harris did – to make friends with fellow business people, to be part of the community and to give back. He was elected to the Board a few years later and was club president in 1997-98. I was president the year after Jim and he helped me every step of the way. I felt a lot of pressure in being the first woman president of the club and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and coach than Jim.
After fulfilling his term on the Board, Jim took over as our club bulletin editor (I couldn’t find the exact date) and he served in that role for over 10 years. Jim couldn’t type so actually he was co-bulletin editor along with Vicke who did the typing, and then later their daughter Tori. (The club made Vicke and Tori Paul Harris Fellows for their contributions as bulletin editor.) Jim was asked many times if he would like someone else to take over, but he declined because he enjoyed having a shared activity with his wife.
About 20 years ago Jim decided he needed to be healthier. Since he loved eating, dieting was out of the question so he started working out and running. He loved running and hiking and will be sorely missed by the Saturday morning running group that also included Bob Danielson and Bill Phillips (sorry, I’m not sure who else). He ran in the Beach to Beacon race every year, and was an instrumental part of the group that resurrected our club’s road race.
Jim was also a competitive son-of-a-gun. He loved the poker parties that our club occasionally has, and when he was winning he giggled like a schoolgirl – it would have been infuriating if we weren’t all so fond of him. The last time that I saw Jim he showed me how to trade players in the ESPN football fantasy league – he was quite proud of the fact that last year he joined a league for the first time and beat the pants off the other league members.
Besides our Rotary connection, I knew Jim and his family because we shared season tickets at the Sea Dogs. When I used to sit with Vicke at the games we would talk about stuff like the books we were reading, what was on sale at Shaw’s and stupid TV shows that she watched with their daughters that only girls would watch. After she passed away in 2012, when I would sit with Jim at the games we would talk about Rotary and baseball….and books we were reading, what was on sale at Shaw’s and stupid TV shows that he watched with his daughters that only girls would watch. It was like he turned into Jim and Vicke all in the same person. He did an absolutely amazing job of being both father and mother to Tori and Annie.
Both Jim and Vicke had great senses of humor and never took themselves too seriously – they were a lot of fun to be around. Jim perverted the Rotary 4-Way Test into “Is it good for me?” Despite this playful approach to Rotary, Jim truly did live out the 4-Way Test in everything he did and was the embodiment of what all Rotarians strive to be. He was a wonderful friend to all of us and he will be missed very much. It was a privilege to know you, Jim – rest in peace.