James Melvin Cooling

February 5, 1937 – January 8, 2021
“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”
James passed peacefully at home, on Protection Island, Nanaimo, BC, with Heather, his wife of 55 years, by his side.
Born in Campbellton, NB, to John Cooling and Eulah Mae Parlee, Jim moved with his RCAF family across the country, from Summerside to Goose Bay; from Aylmer to St. Jean, PQ and Penhold, AB. He chose a career in the military, attending Royal Roads, 1956-58, and Royal Military College, 1958-60, earning a Science degree with the RMC Class of ’60.
After three years in the RCAF, Jim attended Carleton University, graduating with a B.A. in History, a subject which he loved throughout his life. He earned his M.A. in History from Queens University in 1967. Following a stint as a researcher at Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Jim began his teaching career in Hamilton, later moving to Nanaimo in 1969 to become the first History instructor at the newly opened Malaspina College (now VIU). Jim was a gifted and much-admired teacher. Six years later, Jim began a new career in commercial aviation and in flying training. He took on the challenge of starting a flying school, Coolaire Aviation, at Nanaimo Airport in the 80’s. The last 15 years of his flying career was both adventurous and risky as he worked as co-pilot of a Canso ‘flying boat’, fighting forest fires in Northern Ontario, Alberta, and the North-west Territories. Jim ended his career in style ferrying a Canso from Athens, Greece to the Zambezi River in Mozambique. In retirement Jim appreciated the simple pleasures of island life, tending to his garlic, tomatoes and homemade vino, and relaxing on the deck with a coffee or sitting in his favourite chair with book in hand.
Jim’s life was full of lasting friendships, rewarding work, travel, and deep love of family. He also persevered through life`s challenges and tragedies. He was a loving husband and a devoted and proud father, and grandfather. Grandson Delsen, describes his grandad as “curious, talkative, loving and funny with an incredible memory.” Another grandson will soon be born in Japan and Jim was thrilled to learn this wonderful news.
Much admired as a raconteur, Jim regaled friends and ferry patrons with flying stories and his latest musings on history. He also could rant with the best of them. A lover of music, especially jazz, his renditions of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” are unforgettable. Good health eluded Jim for the past 15 years. However, this did not deter him from travelling to tropical locales where he could enjoy a warm pool, palm trees; the delight of making new friends, while dining al fresco, with a cold beer and his ever-present hot sauce – always with family close by. His humour, kindness, good nature and larger-than-life spirit will be greatly missed.
Jim’s death is preceded by those of his parents, his stepmother, Edith Bowlby, and his younger brother Gary, an RCAF jet pilot, killed in an air collision in 1958 in France at the age of 19. He is survived by Heather, son Christopher (Satoko), Yokohama, Japan; daughter Patricia Jackson (Nav) and grandson Delsen, Dundas ON; son Benjamin, Nanaimo; as well as sisters-in-law, Sheila and Judy, brother-in-law Barry and their families.
The family would like to thank the many people who supported Jim’s last days at home. His VIHA caregivers, Island Health nurse Heather, Dr. S. Mulder, Pharmacist Farah Kassam. The love, devotion, kindness and generosity of islanders and close friends will forever be remembered.
A celebration of this fine man’s life will be held at a later date.


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