written by April Archer
Our beloved friend and SaraBella team member, Jim Sawyer, has passed away this morning. In the past few weeks, his beautiful family (and so many friends) have surrounded him with love. He is ready to begin his next chapter. Please keep Jim’s family in your thoughts and prayers.
We have learned many things from “Grandpa Jim”. We’ve learned about serving our country, working hard, studying in school (and in life), being thankful, and enjoying the power and beauty of water. He taught us that perfection doesn’t exist, that we all make mistakes, and that life is a gift that should never be taken for granted.
A few years ago, when SaraBella was in its infancy, we were defining how we wanted to hire, build rods, and make an impact. As we searched for new team members, we learned about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) and their rod-building program.
When I reached out to Jim (he was the leader of the rod-building program at Denver PHWFF) he took us under his wing, taught us, inspired us, befriended us, and let us into his life. Jim became our “Head Rod-Wrapper” and has been an incredible team member.
If you have purchased a SaraBella fly rod in the past few years, there’s a high probability that “a Veteran named Jim” wrapped it. He has also trained and taught our team members with techniques that make our rods so special.
Soon after he began working with SaraBella, Jim told me about the anniversary of the passing of his daughter, Julie. She battled cancer, and Jim was deeply saddened by her loss. When he shared this with me, I asked him to write a blog, entitled “Honoring Julie” to recognize her. From that point forward, we had a really special connection.
When a tough and rugged Veteran uses his hands and his mind to create artistic fly rods, the result is amazing. He focuses, he measures, he counts, and he thinks about the person who will experience joy on the water with this fly rod. He always asked who the rod is for and where it’s going. I would tell him, “This one’s for a woman in Tennessee” or “This one’s for a teenage girl in Minnesota” or “This one is a ‘David Bowie’ tribute rod for a guide in Colorado”. When wrapping a rod, he reflected on his life, he worried about nothing, and he poured his love into each wrap.
Jim often told people, “There are only two things that are certain – birth and death — the bookends. It’s what you do in the middle that matters most.” This is so true, and I feel so blessed that we have had the opportunity to be a part of his (and our) “middle”.
When my family went to Montana last summer, Jim sat down with me, over black coffee, to plan the route and the fishing. He told me that he lived in (I think it was) 7 towns which are now “ghost towns”. He shared stories about the ranches he worked on, the cattle he tended, the rocks he threw, the winters he endured, the science he studied, his favorite fishing spots (especially the Big Hole) the crazy journey of war, family, education, love, loss, and life.
Jim Sawyer is with all of us every time we’re near water. He believes that water heals. Really heals. He believes that it can transform PTSD, ease depression, inspire hope, bring joy, give peace, and create life.
Thanks to Jim, we appreciate a Montana-style chicken fried steak, creamy ice cream, a tattered fly, perfect trim wraps, and bumpy dirt roads.