Brown Funeral Home & Cremation Centre

429 2nd Street South, Kenora, ON


James Ira Gilbert

March 22, 1933July 25, 2020

James Ira Gilbert passed away peacefully at Pinecrest District Home for the Aged, on July 25th, 2020. He was 87 years old.

Jim was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved fishing the Grand River and canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park. It was this love of the lakes and forests that eventually lured him to Kenora.

He loved music and singing. With his rich tenor voice, he not only won numerous musical awards over the years, but also won the heart of Sondra, a young girl whom he met in the Central Church youth choir. Jim and Sondra married in 1954, and true to the duet that they once sang, ‘no two people have ever been so in love’.

Jim started working with Ontario Hydro, Forestry crew, in 1952. In 1960 the opportunity arose, and he jumped at a transfer to Kenora. (Mom was very skeptical about living in such a ‘remote’ area, but Dad promised her that he would take her shopping to a nearby place called “Redditt”. That made Mom feel better, but later got Dad in trouble!!)

Their move to Kenora brought them to beautiful Rabbit Lake and their next-door neighbours, Jean and Gordie Hansen. Having kids the same age, the two families became best and lifelong friends. They shared many special occasions and adventures together, including countless evenings around the fire pit between their houses.

Jim lived the outdoor life in Kenora as much as he could, canoeing and sailing on Rabbit Lake where he lived for almost 60 years, duck hunting, fishing, and camping, where the kids, and later the grandsons, learned many outdoor skills from The Master. He taught his kids how to pluck and gut a duck, hunt partridge, canoe and sail the waters of Rabbit Lake, catch night crawlers and bait a hook, and spot the best blueberry patch! Working for the forestry department meant that Jim spent his days in the ‘bush’. He would occasionally gift his daughters with a rabbit or flying squirrel he had caught while at work. Because Sue’s birthday was Sept 15th (opening of duck season), she often got to go duck hunting as her “birthday treat”! Jim also played and coached hockey on the outdoor rinks of Kenora (although no hockey team was as great as his precious Toronto Maple Leafs!)

Jim embraced life in Kenora and contributed greatly to the community. He joined the Jaffray & Melick Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1961 and spent 37 years with the Department, becoming the Fire Chief in 1980. He worked very hard to serve his community and was fiercely proud of the Fire Department and the team with whom he worked.

Jim was a man of quiet faith, and he found a welcoming church family in First Presbyterian. In fact, when he arrived in Kenora, they welcomed him to the church and also to the position of choir leader, which he maintained for 25 years! Throughout these years, as his faith deepened, he also became an elder, a member of the Kirk Session, and he served his congregation with reverence. In 1973 Jim built a new house on the Rabbit Lake property, which offered him much needed space to try new hobbies. He began building small wooden projects, and just couldn’t stop! Soon he had a full workshop in his basement and was building beautiful furniture. Many of his works of art were gifted to friends and family across Canada. The basement also became home to another new hobby, and Jim was often found ‘down cellar’ creating a new batch of wine!

Jim retired from Ontario Hydro in 1990, and not having spent enough time swinging from trees, he went into business with his good Hydro buddies Donny and Doug doing tree pruning and lawn care. This eventually turned into his own business, Gilbert’s Turf and Tree, which he later sold to his protégé, tree swinging buddy and friend, Tom.

Jim had many special friends in his life, although we’re not sure how he managed that sometimes, given his very dry sense of humour and gruff exterior! These friends were very important to him along the way, and to the end. The clanging of horseshoes after supper signalled to Gordie or Rick it was time to play. Many a ‘high tea’ and lunch dates were shared with Pat, Phil and William. The 4pm porch call was Jim’s favourite as friends would just pop by for a visit. Often you would find Dale, Vern, Roy or Jim’s sons in law Doug and Chris sitting on the porch with him, enjoying the beauty of Rabbit Lake, having a rum ‘n coke, and watching the world go by, and Jim would say……..”It just doesn’t get any better than this”.

Jim is survived by his two daughters Suzanne (Doug), and Lesley (Chris); grandchildren Jordan, Emily (Chris), Daniel, Erin (Davin), Jennifer, Sarah (Chris) and Cameron (Jess); beautiful great grand-daughters Aubrey, Nicole, and Maggie. Jim is also survived by his sister Liz (Dave), brother Bryan (Barb), sister-in-law Val and brother-in-law Len, and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by his beautiful wife Sondra, infant son Mark, and parents Clark and Jessie.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to First Presbyterian Church, 200 Fifth Ave South, Kenora ON, P9N 2A4. Due to Covid, there won’t be a funeral service at this time. So friends are invited to attend a come and go reception, to celebrate his life and share stories, on September 5th from 2 to 4 pm, at 410 Rabbit Lake Road. For social distancing, guests will be outdoors as much as possible. Online condolences may be made at www.brownfuneralhomekenora.com BROWN FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION CENTRE ENTRUSTED WITH ARRANGEMENTS.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


James Ira Gilbert

have a memory or condolence to add?

Vikki Favreau

August 8, 2020

So sorry to hear about Jim's passing. So many wonderful memories. Hugs

Claudia Bunn

August 7, 2020

Dear Sue and Lesley, Thank you for sharing such a loving tribute to your Dad. Your parents were dear friends and we were lucky to have the chance to know them. Our time on Rabbit Lake Road are among our favorite memories - largely due to the fun times with your parents. Hugs to you both.
Claudia and Rick

Courtney Alcock

August 4, 2020

Jim was such a lovely man. I always enjoyed our visits and he brightened my day when he came to get his haircut.
He will be greatly missed.
Condolences to all.


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