In a valley full of colourful characters Jim McGilvery stands out. Whether soaring down from the top of Mt. Swansea in a paraglider or entertaining passerbys at his unmistakeable ice shack on Lake Windermere, McGilvery makes a mark on the community. McGilvery started paragliding 14 years ago and was instantly hooked. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s exciting every time you fly. Mother Nature doesn’t give you any leeway.”
It was fellow paragliders who gave him the nickname “Flour Jim” that many in community know him by today. The name comes from his habit of tossing flour in the air to be certain of which direction the wind is blowing.
Every winter, McGilvery sets up his well-known ice fishing shack, which is draped with LED lights, uses solar power and has a skating rink beside it. He is always welcoming people — both friends and strangers — to spent time at it; so often that other ice fishing shack owners have given McGilvery his other nickname — “the Mayor of Lake Windermere”.
“It’s (the ice fishing shack) fully contained. I can stay out there for four days at a stretch if I have enough food,” said McGilvery, adding that he enjoys the peace and quiet of the lake in winter.
McGilvery was born in Invermere on August 2nd, 1958, and has lived here almost his entire life. He is retired these days, having worked for CP Rail for more 36 years, doing maintenance work on the tracks in the valley.
“One of Irish guys I worked with on the railroad told me I’m the toughest guy he’s ever seen,” he said. “I think he said it, because I just never seemed to be bothered by the cold. We worked in all conditions, even when it was freezing, but it just never seemed to bother me.”
McGilvery also spent three years in Canada’s armed forces, stationed in Wainwright, Alberta from 1981 to 1984. “We had a bet going among three of us, to see if any us could stick it out in the army. It wasn’t always a dream sometimes, but I did it,” said McGilvery.
He enjoys spending time with his family in the valley and in Alberta. His older sister teaches in the aboriginal education program at David Thompson Secondary School, and his younger sister works on the police force in Lethbridge.
“People are the most important part of life,” said McGilvery. But animals have a place in McGilvery’s life too, especially his pet Boston miniature pig, Roxy. “If you see her (Roxy) loose, give her a beer and send her home,” said McGilvery. “She has a good nature, she’s cleaner than most dogs, she likes people and she enjoys going to church gatherings.”
McGilvery intends to continue ice fishing and paragliding well into the future, with the hopes of one day winning the Lakeside Splashdown held each summer at the north end of Lake Windermere.