James S Jamieson MD FRCPs
High school teacher, physician, RCAF medical officer, eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, education advocate and devoted family man.
“You can’t live in the past,” Jim always said. “You have to look forward with enthusiasm and optimism.” Not easy to do when you have outlived all your contemporaries but that is exactly what Jim willed himself to do until his final days at the age of 97 years. Illness and old age did not dull his curiosity in the current, his interest in the lot of everyone he met or his intelligent wit.
Not that Jim didn’t love to reminisce; he was an entertaining storyteller. Tales of youthful days spent down by the brook with his brothers and fly-fishing with college friends on New Brunswick’s Restigouche River were favourites. He happily regaled us with his exploits on the hockey rink and ball diamond, more than once boasting of that day he almost made an unassisted triple play. Interesting cases and characters came to life when he shared his wartime experience as a medical officer in Labrador’s native villages.
But perhaps Jim’s greatest legacy was as one of the pioneer physician specialists of the Ontario Northland. After a decade of specialty medical training in Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology at the Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital and Harvard University, he did not accept one of a host of prestigious faculty positions but rather chose to enter private practice first in Kirkland Lake, ON and later in North Bay. Jim believed in the Ontario North, spending the next 50 years tending the hundreds of communities in his car. Jim worked long days, returning vision to the elderly, caring for the ear infections of the young and much more. Even in his eighties, “Dr. Jim” was available to younger doctors if there was a need. He campaigned tirelessly to improve medical facilities and equipment in the North.
And in the years before government health care, this was done often for what people could spare. Payment came in dribs and drabs and sometimes in the form of moose meat, chickens or fur pelts. That didn’t matter. Medicine was Jim’s treasured vocation, one he studied and loved for a lifetime. That love never shone more brightly than in the care and compassion he showed every patient he attended.
And when there was talk of establishing a university in North Bay, the origin of Nipissing University, he was one of the first on board, serving on their board of governors and being the first president of the Nipissing Alumni Association. He was very proud of the university’s success. It is fitting that an award to recognize influential alumni has been named by the Alumni in his honour.
Over and above his passion for golf and playing violin in the North Bay Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, Jim’s greatest pride and devotion was to his family. The unselfish love and support he gave to his wife of 59 years, Jessie, and his three daughters, can never be measured.
By his own words, Dr. James Jamieson lived a wonderful life, spent caring deeply for others. He left his world a much better place and we in the North are fortunate that he passed our way.
Honoured by Margie Howard, Dr. Vivian Jamieson, and Katherine Munro