REMEMBERING JIM: Jamestown sports community mourns loss of No. 1 fan
When local sports super fan Jim Christ wasn't giving a member of the Jamestown Officials Association a hard time from the sideline, there was a good chance he was asking one of them for a ride.
"Me and the other JOA members would take him out on the road all the time," said Mark Ukestad, a 30-year Jamestown sports official. "I've taken him to regional tournaments and snuck him in the back door ... because everybody knew him.
"He was synonymous with being at the gym, at the field or at the race track. You'll never meet a bigger Blue Jay or Jimmie fan than Jim Christ."
Christ, 68, passed away Monday, June 4 at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo after a brief battle with double pneumonia, according to family. A public celebration of Jim's life will take place this Saturday at Jamestown High School's Jerry Meyer Arena beginning at 10 a.m.
Born with cerebral palsy in 1950, Christ attended school at Jamestown's Anne Carlsen Center and, beginning with support from his parents, Ruby and Wally, developed a lifelong affinity for all things sports. For decades, Christ was a local fixture at Blue Jay, Jimmie and Class B sporting events. The avid Minnesota Twins fan, who was never able to play the sports he so enjoyed to take in because of his disability, also rarely missed a Saturday night at Jamestown Speedway.
"My grandparents just really got him out there and supported his love of sports," said Jodi Bunde of Jamestown, Christ's niece. "They were always big boosters of the local teams and went to all the state tournaments, and after they were unable to get him to games the community of Jamestown really stepped up."
Christ easily took in thousands of contests courtside in his wheelchair, which Bunde said he began using instead of crutches in 1993 because of safety concerns. Ukestad explained Christ never let his disability get in the way of his passion.
"He wanted to do everything, and as much of everything as possible," Ukestad said. "And if he couldn't go out to a game, he was listening to (local sports broadcasters) Mark McKenzie or Steve Linzmeier on the radio."
Working, and later volunteering, as a lunchroom supervisor and hall monitor at Jamestown High School the past 12 years, in 2018 Christ received the JHS Distinguished Service Award in recognition of exceptional support and devoted service to the Blue Jay community.
"He just kinda reminded us every day what it meant to be able to contribute at your capacity," said Jamestown High School principal Adam Gehlhar. "A lot of people will remember Jim for his comments on the sidelines, whether that's him chiming in on what the call should be or telling someone to bend their knees when they're shooting free throws.
"He was a cherished member of our community and it will definitely be a different year. It's a big loss to our JHS family."
Christ was watching and supporting local sports to the end. He was in attendance for last week's North Dakota Class B state baseball tournament at Jack Brown Stadium before falling ill Friday.
"The nurse in Fargo turned on a baseball game for him and put the speaker close to his ear, even though he was sedated," Bunde said. "Years ago he requested three songs to be played at his funeral: the Blue Jay booster song, the Jimmie fight song and 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game.'"
The songs will be part of Saturday's celebration at the high school, where Bunde said folks can wear their favorite team apparel and share their stories of Christ.
"The whole family is just so thankful to the teachers, coaches and the entire community of Jamestown for helping Jim have the most active and exciting life that he could," Bunde said.
The void Christ leaves behind will not go unnoticed to Ukestad and countless others within the Jamestown sports community.
"The gym will never be the same. The auditoriums, the (Jamestown) Civic Center—there'll be something missing," Ukestad said. "My wife put it best yesterday. She said he's not in a wheelchair anymore. He's running around Heaven, probably shooting hoops and giving God a hard time."