Local aviation industry and community leader Jim Glass, 50, died early Tuesday morning, a few days after a serious unknown preexisting medical condition emerged.
Although known in the Prince Albert community for many things, Glass is perhaps best recognized for his role in the creation of Transwest Air, one the largest independent air carriers in Canada, employing about 240 people from Saskatoon northward.
Glass’s aviation career begun with his father, Floyd Glass, who founded Athabasca Airways in 1955, with a lone single-engine Cessna 180 in Prince Albert.
As the airline grew, Jim took interest, helping out his father whenever he could.
“He started off pumping gas when his dad owned it. Then he came in and was cleaning airplanes and he moved up from there — that’s how he started,” Patrick Campling Jr. said, noting that Jim became a skilled pilot.
Campling Jr.’s father founded the rival aviation company La Ronge Aviation in 1960.
“We were kind of like the Hatfield and McCoys through the aviation industry,” Campling explained.
When Floyd died in 1999, Jim took the reins as Athabasca Airway’s general manager. In 2000, he met up with Campling Jr., merging the two companies into Transwest Air.
“The airline business is a very tough business, and we’d been competing for years and years and I don’t think either company was doing that well,” Campling Jr. said.
Merging the two companies created one strong enterprise, he noted.
“Not too many partnerships work, and ours worked well and … each of us did our own thing that we shined at and didn’t really get anyone’s way and we ended up taking the company to a lot higher level, that’s for sure.”
Having worked with Jim for more than 30 years between Athabasca Airways and Transwest Air, Candace Czemeres said that she couldn’t imagine an employer with a greater sense of ethics, intelligence, integrity and humour.
“You could still do business with Jim with a handshake,” she said. “How many people can you do that with nowadays? His word was his word.”
Jim wasn’t one to give up on a job until it was done.
“He had serious drive — go hard or go home,” Czemeres said. “He was wired that way. He had to do what he believed in … He was always challenging me. I loved that.”
As a businessman, he never let employees fall by the wayside, going above and beyond what most employers would do, recognizing full well that more than 240 families depended on his company’s success.
More than once, Czemeres recalls Jim co-signing loans or outright lending money to employees — not through Transwest Air but as part of a personal effort.
“He wouldn’t even think twice about it,” she said. “He was a good man and I think he’d want to be known as that.”
“He wasn’t just a person who was a businessman,” long-time friend Peter Surkan said. “It’s a life that was very busy in many aspects.”
He started off pumping gas when his dad owned it. Then he came in and was cleaning airplanes and he moved up from there — that’s how he started. - Transwest Air co-founder Patrick Campling Jr.
“As a friend, he had many, many circles of friends and was a centerpiece of these circles.”
Surkan has known Jim since kindergarten, co-founding the Silver Pikes senior men’s soccer team with him.
“He’s a leader,” Surkan said. “In the field, he was tireless — very competitive, and he was an ethical player.”
“He was a person who enjoyed sports throughout his life and was a major contributor to the Alfred Jenkins Field House,” Mayor Jim Scarrow said.
Through the efforts of Jim and Campling Jr., Transwest Air has dedicated charitable dollars and personal efforts toward youth programs throughout the province.
“We always supported anything to do with kids and alcohol and drug abuse — that’s what we did and we did it behind the scenes, not for publicity or anything,” Campling Jr. said.
The annual Santa Run is one effort that Czemeres looks fondly back on.
During the second week in December, a crew dressed up as elves accompanied a pilot dressed as Santa Claus made their rounds among northern communities, distributing presents as they went.
They built playgrounds, pledged money and volunteered in other efforts as well.
“He had a really strong belief in helping kids out wherever he could,” Czemeres said. “He put his money where his mouth was.”
Jim also took part in numerous boards and committees, including the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Saskatoon. He was a member of the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Prince Albert District Chamber of Commerce and various other organizations.
“It’s tough to narrow things down, but I’d say he had a big impact on everyone who knew him,” Jim’s younger brother Barry Glass said.
“He was a larger than life personality and he’s going to be deeply missed by his friends and family.
“He was my big brother and all I’ve been thinking about the past little while is how many times he was there to help me or protect me when we were kids growing up, and that’s how I’m going to remember him.”
Gray’s Funeral Chapel in Prince Albert is arranging a memorial service. Although a time and venue has yet to be finalized, Surkan said that he expects a large turnout — a testament to his place in the heart of the community.
“He was certainly known and respected locally, but also provincially and nationally on the aviation scene, Scarrow said.
“He was just a great guy, and quietly went about operating one of the major airlines in the province.”
He is survived by his five children, ranging in age from 12 to 27.