James, Dr. Donald Edward, M.D., M.SC., B.SC.
It is with great sadness, we announce the sudden passing of Dr. Donald Edward James on Saturday March 26th., 2011.
Don was born June 20th. 1936 in Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital. Little did he know that many years hence he would spend Residency time there in Neuosurgery and Thoracic Surgery. Full Circle!!
Don was the son of a Welsh coal miner immigrant – Emerys James and Mary Elizabeth Calper. Together with his younger deceased sisters, Frances and Margaret a happy youth ensued in early Edmonton.
He wanted to drop out of school after Junior High but his father would hear none of this. A compromise was reached – he would continue to High School. Of course, being young and supposedly knowing it all, he dropped out. This was the era when fibreglass was becoming new to Edmonton. He had read about this product in an old “Popular Science” magazine and decided to go for it. He started his own manufacturing business building fibreglass boasts and wholesaling them to retail outfits such as “Woodwards”.
Like all young bucks he took to hot rodding and began designing, and built one of the first fibreglass cars in Edmonton. He won many car shows with his designs and finished products. From this early age to the very recent present he continued to win – the most recent being the “Peoples Choice” award in Parksville.
After about three years of mucking about with the fibreglass a lightening bolt struck Don: Perhaps Dad was right. That particular day, the day of registration for University, Don started a new life. It was an unorthodox registration, but being shuttled from one department to another, he soon learned the campus lay out. Thus began a career in Zoology, Medicine, internship and a five year Cardio-Thoracic Program and a further year in Cardiac Surgery in Cardiff, Wales. Again, full circle, only in his Dads’ homeland.
Don held Medical licenses in Alberta, British Columbia, Oregon and Texas and practiced in all these areas apart from Oregon.
Don was proficient in almost any sport in which he expressed interest. As with all Canadians, long days were spent on outdoor rinks and ponds playing hockey in the childhood days. In later life he played on a team with his two step sons, an Old Timers team (Port Alberni Old Puckers) a Doctor’s Hockey Team which played in the first Doctors International Tournament in Davos, Switzerland. He played with Kitchener Waterloo in the World Cup for Old Timers in Munich, Germany. One of lifes most embarrassing hockey moments came when he was of Bantam hockey age: His organization was to play another group in the playoffs. The team “Wanless Lumber” colloquially known as “Winless Lumber” was to play this powerhouse with three future NHL stars on it: Bucyk, Ulman and Melnick. Our goal keeper abandoned us for fear, the score 33 – 0! Is this football or hockey?
While practicing in the country, he played in a rough and tumble contact hockey league for the Mannville Goldenhawks. Needless to say Don had a few scars, missing teeth and a broken leg during his hockey career. But it created more empathy for patients knowing what they felt with their injuries and illnesses. “Been there, done that”.
His other passions included Grand Prix motorcycle racing at the Edmonton International Speedway. He even won his first race but this was short lived as a few weeks later during practice he wiped out at over 100 mph. He was a bit sore, missed a half day of work, the only in his life, developed more empathy for patients, but destroyed the bike and his Grand Prix career.
It was during this time he began racing formula cars on circuits from Edmonton to Gimli, Manitoba. And raced against the famous Giles Villeneuve.
Don moved to Port Alberni in 1975. One is not a true West Coaster unless he owns a boat and he never did. To fit into the club, he purchased a 27 footer. Having no experience, he learned by the school of hard knocks, (you mean there is an easier way)? He began winter racing with the Schooner Cove Yacht Club and a totally non-experienced crew. “The blind leading the blind”. Instead of one footitis, his next boat was 37 feet and with this he took two years off from Medicine and with his wife Margaret and four year old son Jonathan spent time crossing the Pacific. This was at a time when this was not a common thing to do with a four year old, somewhat pioneering. During this time he would do locums just outside of San Antonio, Texas. Don had many tales and fascinating experiences to tell. He would regale his son Joh and Friends of these many escapades – from riding blind sheep to being left hanging from rafters in the church. He had planned on relating these in a book he was working on called: “Tales from the Backseat”. He was also a keen photographer and won recognition. He has photography in the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Don is survived by his daughter, Dr. Dawn Elizabeth Fiona James (deceased wife – Mildred James) and his son Jonathan Edward James (ex-wife Margaret James) Granddaughter Baylie. Also survived by his Companion and Partner Bonnie Rowley whom he loved very much.
Don will be missed by his many friends and former patients.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday April 9th. at 2 pm at Yates Funeral Chapel, 1000 Allsbrook Rd., Parksville, B.C.
In Lieu of flowers, a donation in Dr. Donald Edward James’ memory may be made to the University of Alberta Medical School in Edmonton, Alberta.