Devoted family man, hard worker, lifelong learner, gentleman. Born Aug. 14, 1924, near Lestock, Sask. Died Oct. 23, 2011, in Victoria of natural causes, aged 87.
Jim Vanyo’s early experiences shaped his values and the life he fashioned for himself and his family.
He grew up on a Saskatchewan homestead in a close-knit, loving family, one of six children of Andrew and Margaret Vanyo. As a youth working on neighbouring farms, Jim endured long days of hard labour, harsh weather and the austere loneliness of farm life.
At 18, without his family’s knowledge, Jim hopped on a bicycle with a broken pedal and hobbled to the nearest town. He sold the bicycle to pay for a bus ticket to Saskatoon and joined the army.
On June 6, 1944, Jim was one of the 14,000 brave young Canadians who stormed Juno Beach in the D-Day offensive. Because he had a clear speaking voice, he was assigned the job of regimental wireless control operator in the colonel’s tank, from which he transmitted tactical instructions. Jim’s two brothers, Frank and Alec, had also joined the army; all three participated in the liberation of the Netherlands and all three survived the war.
Jim married his sweetheart Irene in Calgary in 1950 and they moved to Vancouver Island to raise their five children: Barbara, Debbie, Shelley, Jamey and Kathy. Jim found a career as a shingle sawyer, which required manoeuvring large blocks of red cedar over huge, noisy, fast-moving blades. His big, strong hands and his well-developed survival instinct helped him avoid losing a finger – or worse. As a union leader, he worked tirelessly to improve employees’ safety and work conditions.
Jim had a passion for learning about everything from astronomy to philosophy, electronics to car mechanics. He took great pleasure in repairing antique radios, coaxing sound from the early vacuum tube models in carved wooden cabinets.
He enjoyed 30 years of retirement and more than 45 years of golf. Because his golf performance was better in wet weather, he was affectionately dubbed, “Web Foot.” When declining health forced him to give up his place on his foursome, he never gave up hope that he would one day be well enough to play “just one more round of 18 holes.”
Jim valued his family above all else and was always available to offer his wisdom, unconditional love and a helping hand. There was nothing he enjoyed more than welcoming family and friends into his home and sharing a cup of coffee.
When Jim reflected on his life, he said he was deeply satisfied. He was the ultimate optimist. His cup was neither half empty nor half full – it was full. He enjoyed 61 years of marriage to a wonderful woman and was surrounded by the love of his large family. Since his early years working on prairie farms, he was never again alone.
By Shelley Forrester, Jim’s daughter.