Last summer Jim Trimble enjoyed a beverage on the patio of the Fleetwood-area retirement condo he shared with his wife, Pat Trimble. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Last summer Jim Trimble enjoyed a beverage on the patio of the Fleetwood-area retirement condo he shared with his wife, Pat Trimble. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

OBITUARY

Cancer claims Surrey’s ‘Diamond’ Jim Trimble, who loved to entertain crowds later in life

He won awards for work to establish The Vaudevillians troupe and Naked Stage theatre company

For Jim Trimble I wanted to write what I called a “living obituary” to document his many adventures in the Surrey arts community over the past two-plus decades — just for him to enjoy reading, if nobody else.

But it’s too late for that.

Sadly, “Diamond Jim,” a man known for his booming voice and gentle manner, died Friday morning (April 29), peacefully, after bladder cancer had zapped him of his energy and mobility in recent years. He was 91.

“He fought a long battle with great courage,” his adoring wife, Pat Trimble, wrote in an email to friends on Monday.

Jim was an avid reader of this newspaper, which has chronicled his work to launch The Vaudevillians seniors entertainment troupe and, more recently, the Naked Stage theatre company that presents script readings at Newton Cultural Centre.

Last month Pat convinced Jim to leave their Fleetwood-area condo for a couple of hours to attend an Arts Council of Surrey meeting, where he was surprised with an Outstanding Service to the Arts Award. Seated in his wheelchair, Jim held his shiny new plaque, smiled for a camera, his face lit up, his head still thick with amazing, flowing hair.

Born in February 1931 on a farm in Saskatchewan, Trimble worked in the banking, farming and fishing industries prior to retirement. In the 1980s he and Pat met through a classified ad placed in a Vancouver newspaper, fell in love and moved to Cloverdale by the mid-1990s. Only then did the couple begin to make their mark in Surrey’s entertainment world.

“At the seniors centre I found a tap class, which I’d done as a child but hadn’t danced in 50 years,” Pat recalled last summer.

A performance group was formed, and Jim volunteered as stage manager and equipment roadie.

“He was the one who said we need to register with the government as a non-profit group, and Jim got all that organization done,” Pat added. “He really pushed for all that, to get the group organized.”

The Vaudevillians would go on to perform for seniors and families at events across Metro Vancouver, including a yearly “bursary show” that raised money for performing-arts students at Douglas College.

Audiences always loved Diamond Jim, who emceed the shows and convinced the troupe to start charging more money to perform, ultimately to raise additional funds for deserving students.

“I really enjoyed my role in those shows,” he recalled last June. “With the Vaudevillians I saw something in them that I thought I could improve. We’d do shows in parking lots and garages, changing in back alleys – true vaudevillians, you know. They were talented seniors. It had to be organized and presented properly. And I guess the biggest thing I got credit for is the bursary.”

In 2017 Trimble was given a Surrey Civic Treasures award, a year after he some theatre friends had launched Naked Stage Productions Society to present “readers theatre” shows in Surrey.

Jim stayed active with the new company until cancer and advancing age became too much. Last spring he was given three to six months to life.

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)

Last summer I convinced Jim to talk about his life in Surrey’s arts community, for a short video.

“It’s been the greatest days of my life, the most satisfying experience imaginable,” he said. “I just can’t express how happy it’s made me being part of the arts community, especially in Surrey.

“There’s just so many wonderful people to help you here,” Jim added. “So if you have any interest in getting involved in the arts, jump in with both feet. That’s my advice. Love you all.”

Three weeks ago I visited Jim and Pat at their retirement residence, and talked to Jim for the final time. He slept a lot more during the daytime hours and had lost his appetite, but still watched baseball games on TV, went for walks with Pat when he could and talked about enjoying a bowl of good miso soup at a local restaurant. Meantime, Pat pondered a return to dance with The Vaudevillians, now that rehearsals have started again, post-pandemic.

“I am doing my best to heal and hope to be able to face my new life soon,” Pat wrote in her latest email.

“That is what Jim wanted.”

A funeral service for Jim Trimble is planned for 2 p.m. June 25 at Elim Village’s Oasis amenity centre, in Fleetwood.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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Arts and EntertainmentObituariesSurrey