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McConkey would have none of it, however. “He came over,” recounted Tom, “helped me to my feet and in that booming voice of his said: ‘Isn’t this a great day, Tom? We’re so lucky to be here. Don’t you think?’ And suddenly I didn’t feel so tired…”
Last spring, only weeks before Tom’s death, Jim made a special trip to Shaughnessy to visit with his old friend. Although he was visibly moved by my father-in-law’s condition, he never let his voice betray his emotions. “Tom — you’re looking great,” he said in that same jovial tone he’s always used. And though he knew it for the lie it was, Tom’s eyes shone with enjoyment. It was clear that Jim’s impromptu visit had made his day.
Jim turned 80 this summer. Most of his contemporaries have either passed away or have radically slowed down their activities. But he wears his years lightly. A special guest at last year’s Words & Stories event, he spent his week at Whistler skiing with friends in the morning and golfing with his son in Pemberton every afternoon. Didn’t matter what the weather was like — sunny, stormy, soupy or even downright nasty — he didn’t alter his plans. “Everyday is a good day if you’re on the mountain,” he told me. And he meant it.
“There’s something very special about that man,” said Bonny Makarewicz, who had been asked by the Vancouver Sun to photograph the Whistler legend during his stay here. Another person with a well-developed bullcrap meter, Bonny was totally seduced by the McConkey chutzpah. “He seems to have so much fun with life,” she marvelled. “And it comes through so clearly in his photos. Even at his age today! The camera still loves this guy…”
And there you have it. To me, Jim McConkey embodies all that is exciting and inspiring and adventurous about this singular Coast Mountain community called Whistler. Accessible, generous, self-deprecating and totally unpretentious — but with a damn-the-torpedoes, risk-taking element to his character that has led him into countless adventures and more than his share of mishaps — Jim is far from perfect. Just ask his former wives: they’ll tell you.