Jim Rague, a member of the Swain Ski Patrol, died suddenly on October 26, 2006 of a heart attack at his home in Rochester, NY. He was 45 years old and is survived by his wife Bethany, daughter Dezirae, sons Bryan and Luke, his mother and six sisters, and many relatives in his large family. Luke is a candidate this year for the junior patrol at Swain, and Jim’s sister Cathy Rague is also a member of Swain Ski Patrol. Jim’s late father, Edwin “Skip” Rague was a member of Honey Hill Ski Patrol in Warsaw.
Jim joined the Swain Ski Patrol in 1991 and became a senior patroller in 1996. In addition to being an avid skier and patroller, he volunteered in his sons’ Boy Scout Troop and enjoyed his free time sailing in the summer. He owned his own business, Blue Chip Mold in Rochester, that manufactures various types of plastic injection molds.
Jim and his wife Bethany enjoyed a rock solid marriage where they were truly best friends. I remember a long ride that my wife and I took with them to the Breeder’s cup horse races in NYC last November. Jim’s attentiveness to Bethany whenever she was talking was so evident – he was not day dreaming, or reading the racing form, or even looking at the early season snow on the ground as we drove through the Poconos – he was completely focused and interested on what she had to say. I can say that I work harder on the things that make a marriage successful because of knowing Jim.
Jim had the opportunity to raise and positively influence 3 outstanding kids and had active involvement with their friends, schooling, hobbies, scouting, and of course skiing. I could not help but smile over the weekend before his funeral as we looked at some old pictures of Jim as a very young man with newborn Dezirae in his arms and thought about how successful he became as a husband, and a father. I was particularly impressed last winter when Jim stopped by our house unannounced one Friday night and asked if we had any spare firewood and a good sleeping bag ? With a puzzled look I asked him why he needed those things? He calmly explained that he was going to camp out in a tent with his son Luke and the scouts at Swain for 2 nights in the middle of winter – and Bethany was going too ! Now that shows dedication to your kids. I’m sure Jim slept like a baby those nights with the trail lights on and the noise from the snow guns – as his dream job was always a 3rd shift “groomer” driving a snow cat at one o’clock in the morning. I can say that knowing Jim has helped to show me the important priorities in life as I raise two young children.
Whenever we got an early snow in November, or were in the middle of a long and snowy and brutally cold winter – I would go to work and hear everyone moaning and groaning about the cold, the shoveling, the terrible driving conditions. I would probably even be moaning myself if we got a storm in April and I was hoping for an early start to the golf season, but then I would talk to Jim and usually hear his favorite saying during a harsh Rochester winter – 3 short words: “This is great !.” Skiing is a wonderful gift to give someone (especially when you live in Rochester, NY), and fortunately Jim had the opportunity to pass that along to Dezirae, Bryan and Luke – and I know he would want them all to stay active in the sport and pass it on to their kids just as his father Skip did. I can say that knowing Jim has helped me to smile a bit more than I would otherwise when mother nature turns down the thermostat.
As everyone who knew him was aware, Jim was usually a man of few words. We were skiing up at Stratton Vermont a few years ago on brutally cold day (20 below windchill). Jim would have called that a “nice” day. The area had to shut the gondola down due to the high winds, so we ended up riding the chairlifts in the afternoon. It was one of those days where you really didn’t want to have ANY exposed skin. Well there’s Jim – no facemask on – goggles and a hat only, his beard all frosted up – and I noticed there was frostbite beginning to form on his cheeks. So I pointed it out to him as any good ski patroller would do at the end of a run and said –”Hey Jim, you’ve got some frostbite on your cheeks.” He just looked at me and said “So?” and got back on the lift. There weren’t many people skiing that day to begin with due to the cold, but I believe at one point that afternoon everyone else on the mountain had quit except Jim. I can say that knowing Jim has taught me that sometimes the most appropriate response is to flash a knowing smile and say nothing.
Jim’s business partner Paul shared a few stories with me about Jim’s abilities as a businessman and skills as an engineer. Again, Jim never complained about the deadlines he had to meet or the road trips required in order to get a part to a customer on time. He never really commented about the tremendous number of hours he and Paul worked in order to make Blue Chip Mold successful and take care of their employees and he rarely complained when things went wrong. He just figured out how to make it all work. Jim was very modest about this part of his life’s accomplishment and I know his co-workers and customers will miss him very much. One of Jim’s famous quotes that will stay with me was whenever some unexpected financial expense popped up in Jim or Bethany’s life he would say “It’s only money…just have to make more.” I can say that knowing Jim and his attitude towards work and problem solving will certainly help me to curse a little less, and not blame anyone when things go wrong.
Jim was a great friend who was always there for me and willing to help out with projects at home. He would give you his opinion sparingly, usually when you were headed down the wrong path. He was a joy to ski with, a big man who skied expertly down any slope with grace, and who was loved by over 100 other Ski Patrol family members at Swain. Jim never boasted about his skills, just quietly did his job – and whatever was asked of him by others. I thought Jim might like this, so I did some quick math on what 16 years of Patrolling at Swain with Jim would mean as far as statistics.
- ~ 400 ski days
- ~ 36,000 miles in a car to get there and back
- ~ 3.9 million feet of vertical
- ~ 6000 runs / chairlift rides
- ~ A lot time in the chairlift talking about work, family and politics
- ~ A lot of time in the chairlift not saying anything
I can say I know a lot of people who are really going to miss those chairlift rides with Jim.
Roger Slade – Swain Ski Patrol