I met Jim Lemmon in 1973 when he hired me as a laborer on a job he was running on a dude ranch outside Chalice, Idaho. Since that time he has been my boss, my teacher, my employee and my friend. It has been an honor and a privilege to know him for the last 40 years. In addition to that, he is flat out the best carpenter I have ever met.
I worked for Jim off and on from 1973 through 1977 doing residential and commercial construction. During that period I mostly saw him operate as a job superintendent and layout man. While he did do work as a carpenter on those jobs, he was primarily the person who coordinated the work of all the trades employed. What emerged over time was a picture of a person who had a detailed understanding of how each operation prepared the way for the next step to follow. He could create phenomenal efficiency by shaping the work environment of each subcontractor so that their work product would be exactly what the next sub needed as a starting point. They were great jobs.
In 1977 my own path took me to Port Townsend, Washington where I became involved in the repair and construction of wooden boats. Eventually I established my own boatyard. Jim and I stayed in touch as friends do, but I didn’t think I would ever again have the pleasure of working with him. In 2002 I got lucky. Jim’s wife was in school in a nearby town, He was willing to work on my crew. At that time I had 15 to 20 people working for me depending on the boats in the yard and the kind of work required. Most of the employees were specialists – shipwrights, a caulker, painters, a fellow who did fiberglass work and one great mechanic who was also a welder. The specialists were all very good at the jobs with which they were familiar, but I also needed one really good problem solver who could be dropped into almost any situation and produce work of superior quality. That was Jim.
He arrived in his work vehicle, a converted Cadillac hearse nicknamed “Killer”. I put Jim to work on the 107 foot motor yacht Dorothea. (See Photo)
At the beginning it was mean work, stripping from the bottom of the boat paint so toxic that it has since been outlawed. Jim never flinched. His example carried the crew. At the end of the job, once the skipper of Dorothea had found out what was available from Jim, there was one Change Order after another as the staff of Dorothea thought of things for him to do.
From there Jim went on to work on the motor vessel Beagle. From fitting a very difficult awning on the back deck to fixing the lock hardware in the wheelhouse door, Jim made fine work of everything he touched. His record of success continued with each task I sent his way.
Eventually Jim and his wife relocated to Salem, Oregon. I retired from the operation of my shop at the Port of Port Townsend in 2004. In the last several years Jim has made room for me on a couple of contracts he has had that involved shaping wood into curves. I am still impressed at how much work he can produce in a day and how good the work looks once he’s done.
The great blessing in knowing Jim Lemmon is that you can tell the truth about him and it is all good news.
President, Baird Boat Company
Nordland, Washington 98358