In loving memory of Jim Palmer
May 14, 1951 – December 5, 2022
Jim set his spirit free at home accompanied by his beloved partner Jan Gemmell and dearly loved daughters Nita and Carly. After quaffing a pint, he set out with a grin on his face to the tune of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Jim was born in London, Ontario to Al and Muriel Palmer. An Army brat, his family’s travels took him to many places across Canada and overseas to Zoest, Germany. Fond memories of time spent exploring Jericho Beach brought him back to the coast after high school, and he never strayed far from the ocean after that.
Jim had a wide variety of careers and interests that took him on many adventures. A self-taught mechanic, he worked at Trev Deeley’s motorcycle shop in Vancouver and a had short career racing motorcycles. Instigated by his childhood best friend, George Sirk, Jim put his mechanical skills to use when they embarked on an epic trip in 1970 from Vancouver to Panama in a Land Rover. He worked as a mechanic at the Grand Duke mine in Stewart, B.C. and farmed at a commune on Haida Gwaii with his brother Glenn. On Cortes Island he worked as a tree planter, mechanic, oyster farmer, fabricator, blacksmith, and welder, making lifelong friends through his many endeavours. He helped move a sailboat from Cortes to Alaska and did a stint working on a prawn fishing boat where he learned to love octopus.
In 1980 he enticed Jan from the shipyards of Vancouver to his squatter abode in the wilds of Carrington Bay on Cortes. Jan taught him how to wield a 6011 rod, and they, improbably, including a narrow escape with the ocean, built a steel pontoon float for Jim’s small house on pilings. Under the instruction of friend Bob Thompson, the house slid onto the float via a tidal log forklift. On a crisp November morning, it was towed by Bob’s Sutil Chief to an oyster lease in the Gorge Harbour. Daughter Nita was born and enjoyed her first three years on the float house, peeking at the ocean life through a porthole that Jim built into the floor.
From Cortes, the family moved to Burnaby, as Jim found work in the shipyards at ABD Aluminum. Jim spent a summer in Kyuquot keeping a salmon packer running, along with endless other tasks as required. After their daughter Carly was born, school followed, with Jim taking electronics at BCIT. He worked at Canada Post as an electronic and mechanical technician and when the family moved to Courtenay he settled into a transfer as a postal clerk, often cycling the Dyke Road to work at the Comox post office.
Family days exploring Morrison Creek near the house led Jim to streamkeepers courses and ultimately more than two decades of stewardship on this bountiful salmon stream. He began as a volunteer with the Morrison Millard Dippers on Project Watershed’s water quality monitoring program, followed by a restoration project in Morrison Creek. Next came smolt counting fences and other restoration projects initiated by the Morrison Creek Streamkeepers and guided by biologists Warren Fleenor and Rupert Wong, both dear friends. Jim learned so much that he parlayed it into a post-post office career with Current Environmental. As a technician with Current, Jim worked from the Cowichan to the Eve River, from Tofino to Powell River, as well as around the Comox Valley, monitoring projects and keeping gear in order. He took the lead on three Morrison Creek restoration projects, his enthusiasm infusing the work. He was an advocate and representative for Morrison Creek and its lamprey, helping to ensure its legal protection. He touted the Morrison Creek Headwaters as a conservation area, traipsing about with Jan, mapping its wetlands, and doing flow measurements on its tributaries. He had endless support from his fellow Morrison Creek Streamkeepers as well as many other organizations, companies, and numerous volunteers. Jim’s curiosity, passion for learning, and reverence for nature permeated his conservation work.
Jim’s time was cut short by a rare lung cancer. He approached his illness with his usual doggedness, good humour, and grace. A loving and inspiring partner and father, he is survived by his love Jan Gemmell, daughters Nita and Carly Palmer, brother Glenn, sisters Sandy, Colleen, Julia, and their families. Many thanks for the care from Dr. Andrew Kelly, all the home care nurses, the palliative care team, Dr. Tanya Daws, and the doctors, nurses, and technicians at the Comox Valley and Royal Jubilee Hospitals.
Jim’s legacy will live on in the Morrison Creek Headwaters, from bugs to bats, lamprey to owls, amanitas to Devil’s Club, and salmon to bears. A celebration of life for Jim will be held in the spring. If you wish to honour his memory, you can donate to the Comox Valley Land Trust’s Morrison Creek Headwaters Campaign to protect this place that Jim loved so dearly: https://www.cvlandtrust.ca/portfolio-items/morrison-headwaters-campaign/