The following are edited excerpts from a San Juan Bautista Rotary Club newsletter about the group’s recent meeting:
San Juan Bautista Rotarians and guests arrived to a recent meeting with hugs of condolence. West’s normal chair of choice was left vacant.
West died Dec. 6 and was actively involved in the community for decades.
Rotarian Arthur Testani began by introducing a slideshow of pictures highlighting Jim to the song sung by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World”. Following were numerous scheduled speakers and other individuals in the club who wanted to honor Jim.
One of West’s best friends, Supervisor Anthony Botelho, began.
“It is a lot easier to this group about the county and what we are doing. This is outside of what I normally do. When something like this happens, you wonder how and why. I think everybody in this room is a good friend of Jim’s. You’ve known him for a long time; a member of this community and was active in everything that was charitable and good. He was a very good friend of mine.”
Rotarian Annette Cain-Rhines started off with a word.
“Pinnacle: the highest point or part, as of a hill, a line of travel, or any object; the highest point of attainment or aspiration; the highest state of degree; the culminating point
Challenging, crest, depth, endurance, impervious, inspiring, might, natural, peak, permanent, proud, rock, summit, uplifting.
“I chose this word for Jim mostly because he loved rocks and the nearby Pinnacles are full of them. But there are other reasons why this word is a good fit. Jim was solid and grounded in his love and support for the company he worked for and the community he lived in. He aspired to high levels, winning several philanthropy awards and serving as mayor. Some admired his strength and stubbornness and might say he could be as unmoving as a mountain.”
Rotarian Jackie Munoz said she and Jim knew each other between 26 and 30 years.
“We first met when I was the principal at Aromas School and we needed a new playground. Someone in the community told me, ‘You know Graniterock is right down the road and I don’t think they have donated much to Aromas. Why don’t you contact them?’ So, I did and it was Jim. Jim took hold of the project; talked to the owner, Mr. Wolpert and suddenly we had everything donated. Not only did that happen, but Jim organized volunteers from Graniterock to come out and build the playground structure.”
Newly elected San Juan Mayor Cesar Flores offered his take as well.
“As you all know, I have entered to political arena and a lot of it had to do with Jim’s blessing,” Flores said. “He urged me to run and I asked him about all the candidates. He said, ‘It’s right there in the code.’ As you can see, I’m the new mayor. It was with his advice and I feel from my heart because he was a dear friend.”
Rotarian Donna Holmes spoke about knowing him for a long time.
“You don’t own a trucking business, especially construction, without knowing Jim West,” she said. “I’ve known him since we started, which was about 38 years ago. He was always willing to help. It didn’t matter what it was.”
Rotarian Wayne Norton said he and West disagreed a lot and agreed a lot, too.
“We also worked together on things,” he said. “One of the things I remember about Jim is that even when we disagreed, he was never disagreeable. Even when Jim fought each other on issues that we really cared and were passion about what was best for the community, I never doubted Jim’s commitment to the community.”
Rotarian Larry Cain said West “resonated” in the community.
“All the schools received something from Graniterock because of Jim. Jim is best described as a man with a big heart; long-term and beneficial to a lot of our community. The community is greater because he was here.”
There were other speakers as well, but Testani closed by talking about legacy.
“How many of us, when we look back on our lives will be able to have the legacy that Jim is leaving? His friendships, his accomplishments, his personality, his love of community; again, the things he did. I’m amazed at the accomplishments.”