I don't know where Jim was born, but he once told me that he grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and that he had lived in California and in Florida for many years. I knew that he owned an organic cattle ranch in Nevada and a feed mill further north, he had also been in the hotel business. He loved film and all the arts and was very much a modern day renaissance man. But when I would ask him about the Cheese Factory his eyes just sparkled and we would talk ......
It was about 8 years ago at ACS that we met, and from that time on we were good friends. We enjoyed the competition of teasing each other in the most unusual ways. One example would be when he took a picture of himself and my (Carr Valley) sales manager in the French Marin Booth at a trade show and emailed it to me bragging that he had just hired her! This lead to me putting a Carr Valley sign in front of his booth and taking my picture with Max (his sales manager).
There was also the 100 year club we created- French Marin Cheese 1843, my family 1883, and Joe Widmer, because Joe only had 75 years ..... we loaned him 25 so he could join. We called a meeting of the club whenever we saw each other and of course raised and lowered the dues as needed. If two members were together we would call the third on the phone and hold the meetings- I think Joe and I will continue the tradition of the meetings and raise a glass or two, and a motion and a second to honor Jim in the 100 year club.
Jim was a great competitor....One year at ACS he was upset with the judging and vowed that he would not enter any cheeses in the competition the following year. A few weeks before the deadline, I called him to see if he was still firm on not entering. When he continued to say he was not entering, I said "Good! Jim, this may just be the year Carr Valley beats California!" He changed his mind and entered more and won more than ever before, and I was glad he did.
Jim and Kris and Lisa and I, got to spend 4 days together at the World Cheese Contest 2009 in the Canary Islands. We had an amazing time together, Tapas, drinks, walking on the beach, driving through the mountains. At the competition itself, French Marin won 1st place Gold, that evening. We were all thrilled for Jim, it was a great celebration. We never thought those would be our last best days together.
Whenever or wherever, I always sought Jim out. For the cheese industry it is important to note, that he had saved the oldest cheese plant in the country from ruin and made it into a world champion. In my eyes Jim was a champion, a man of honor, confidence, humor and finesse. Last time we spoke, I had called him from ACS in Seattle, we spoke for 10 minutes and I told him we missed him and wished him the best. Max told me he was still running the Cheese factory from home and was dealing with issues even the day before he passed.
It is my hope that I will someday live up to the Jim Boyce standard. A real champion.