Opinion

COLUMN: Tim Jones always answered the call

Tim Jones pictured in front of NSR
Tim Jones pictured in front of NSR's mobile command centre in 2008.
— image credit: Outlook file photo

You know when people say they remember where they were or what they were doing when an icon died?

The death of Tim Jones shook me the same way.

Part of me regrets checking social media so late that evening. My innate journalistic nature would be a curse, in this case.

While watching TV on Sunday evening, I mindlessly opened up Facebook and caught the breaking news headline. I read it twice to make sure.

My heart sank. My first thought was what a cruel twist of irony, given the countless lives Tim has helped save over the years.

I then thought about his ‘other family’, fellow North Shore Rescue members, trying in vain to save their leader as he lay on that frigid mountain trail. He was invincible, he wasn’t supposed to die.

I didn’t get to sleep until well after 2 a.m. In fact, I penned most of this column into the wee hours of the morning. The next day’s busy schedule seemed irrelevant.

I starting recalling recent conversations with Tim. How on one occasion just before Christmas he profusely apologized for not returning my call right away on a story. It was uncharacteristic of him. He was always quick to get the message out that safety came first in the mountains.

I first met Tim on Grouse Mountain in the summer of 1998. I was a 17-year-old putting myself through journalism school while working as a Skyride operator.

Tim was the sturdy man in the bright red jacket who carried multiple two-way radios. He seemed important. I wouldn’t learn just how invaluable he was until years later when I became a reporter for The Outlook.

But back to the mountain, and my first impression of this great man. In an emergency rescue situation, the NSR leader was always swiftly expedited up the hill. So there were a handful of occasions when we would travel in the Skyride alone together.

I would stand on my conductor platform and he would stare intently at the Grouse Grind, as if he had the power to see through the trees. Each time we met, he barely spoke two words to me. Being a teenager, I was offended. But now, as seasoned adult, I see that he was in rescue mode. And he was focused.

Tim was unequivocally intense. He was always optimistic, but he was also realistic. If someone had been missing for awhile in inclement weather, Tim would tell you: “It’s the worst case scenario for survival.”

Often, he was the first shoulder that family members would cry on. And he always kept in contact, regardless of the rescue outcome. The amount of lives Tim touched is immeasurable.

This week, I learned how many years ago Tim saved an 18-year-old from certain death on Mount Seymour. That man is now a neuroscientist and a father. You can’t measure the impact Tim had on this man’s life.

Apart from saving lives, Tim was mentor. He saw a piece of himself in two young NSR members and appointed them to help carry on his legacy.

We also learned he was a family man. Tim’s son Curtis said he was the best father any son or daughter could ask for.

The collective outpouring of grief has been palpable following Tim’s death. From fellow emergency responders to politicians to everyday people, the community continues to share in the grief.

On Saturday a public memorial is being held for Tim. I plan to be there. And I’m certain Centennial Theatre and its colossal parking lot won’t be large enough to contain the gratitude.

mspitale@northshoreoutlook.com

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