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THE CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR ASBESTOS VICTIMS

tribute casselmanAn extraordinary and remarkable person who shared his wisdom abundantly, spread his compassion generously, and loved his family more than Life itself.

Jim was born in Yellowknife, NWT on September 26, 1942 to Anne and Jim Casselman. Unconditional love was woven into his fabric of youth by his parents, grandparents and very large extended family. The family moved several times during Jim's youth, eventually settling in Trail, B.C. where Jim graduated from High School.

Jim's inherent gift of learning and teaching, and his intense desire to honor this gift, provided a rich array of opportunities personally and professionally. His formal education included a Chemical Technician Certificate, Bachelor of Education, Masters of Education, Certificate in Public Administration, Amateur Radio License, Canadian Power Squadron Certificate, Intermediate Coastal Cruising and Mediterranean Cruising Certificate and Level One Coaching.

His chosen profession was teaching, a career which spanned three decades, retiring in March 2003. He taught Industrial Education, Computer Science and Math at the Junior High level and was consistently appreciative for this rewarding opportunity. Continual stories flow in from ex-students from various parts of the world expressing gratitude to Jim and how he made a positive difference in their lives.

Jim was exceptionally gifted in the "art of teaching himself" virtually anything. And everything he chose to do, he did with boundless energy and passion. He was known by his family and friends as the "project man" ... creating something out of wood or metal, fixing anything that was broken, re-inventing things to make them work more efficiently, helping others to fix or build and teaching his immense repertoire of skills to his family and anyone who wanted to learn. His sailing knowledge and skills took him, his family, and a variety of crew members, from Kootenay Lake and the Gulf Islands to the Ionian and Aegean Seas. He was an advanced downhill skier. He learned to row and, just prior to his diagnosis of mesothelioma, acquired single and double rowing sculls. Inspired by his sons' interest in competitive swimming, Jim spent the last 15 years of his life attempting to become an Olympic swimmer! He encouraged Erica to join this swimming passion of his and together they swam and competed for several years. The last event was the Worlds Masters Games in Edmonton, July 2005, a foreshadowing of Jim's illness as he struggled to catch his breath when he swam his 200 metre freestyle event.

Jim's sparkling discovery of Erica in June 1969 (Erica's father sold Jim his first sailboat ) began a "rare, pure and extraordinary" human connection. Jim and Erica were married in Nelson on August 25, 1973. Their relationship flourished, providing each of them a solid sense of self-worth and sense of belonging. Together they created a home continually filled with excitement, energy, kindness and respect and abundant love. It was a relationship which embraced profound simple truths of everyday living and "turned boring moments into joy." Their passion and devotion for each other grew exponentially over the years. This magical relationship was enhanced with the birth of three children, Ivan, (1979) Emma (1981 and died shortly after birth) and Graham (1982).

Jim described fatherhood as an "extraordinary adventure with limitless rewards." He never grew weary, even during his illness, of supporting them, guiding them, encouraging them, enjoying them, hugging them and loving them. A day never went by, a phone call never ended without Jim verbally telling Ivan and Graham, "Love you, son."

Perhaps those that knew Jim over the years took for granted "who he was." It was Jim's diagnosis of mesothelioma in October 2005 and his 18 months of confronting this harsh, cruel and terrifying disease that truly captured his remarkable humanistic traits.

He balanced the desire to live "at any cost" with the realistic humbleness that this disease is incurable. He learned, we learned and everyone learned about mesothelioma. Fortunately we had a skilled, professional and very compassionate medical team who honored Jim's need for knowledge about the disease. During two surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, Jim researched, every day, the availability of a clinical trial. His willingness to share and speak the truth about this disease was appreciated by family and friends.

He continued on with projects, helping his own sons with their tasks, knowing he had a finite time to work with them and teach them his varied skills. He embraced his last sailing trip, last family reunion, last camping trip, last family trip and last vacation with Erica with boundless energy and hope. He continued to tutor Math to students until March 2007. He truly appreciated every phone call and conversations he had with Ivan and Graham.

His sense of justice continued to prevail when he gave the family guidance in suggesting we take on the task of permanently closing all asbestos mines in Canada! This idea was his way of reminding us of who we are and what we are capable of doing.

His ability to openly and authentically express his deepest feelings became his greatest gift to us and will be a permanent legacy for generations...yet to know...this very special person.

Despite the harsh physical symptoms of the disease he was always grateful for just "one more day" to spend with his cherished family, supportive friends and the gifts the universe offered him.

Jim died on April 15, 2007 in the Emergency Department of the University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta. Jim and Erica had traveled to Edmonton on April 1st as Jim had finally been accepted in a clinical trial for mesothelioma at the Cross Cancer Institute. He was in week two of the clinical trial. His final dying experience can be described as unselfish, peaceful and gracious. As one of his nurses stated...there was so much love in the room, you could feel it.

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