A memorial mass for James C. “Jimmer” Gillispie will be held Saturday, Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. at the Big Sky Chapel in the Meadow Village. Jimmer and his wife Collette owned a bar on the mountain called the Brass Bell and Caboose at the Mountain Village and lived in Big Sky since the early 1970s. The following is a tribute written by Mr. Gillispie’s granddaughter.

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By Alli Neils-LeMoine

My grandfather used to wear furry boots. They weren’t as much furry as they were hairy—knee-length hairy Ugg-like boots made long before Uggs were invented, made from real animal hair. He was half man, half big horn sheep, warm enough for a Montana winter.

He walked through Big Sky like he belonged (he did), and through the lift lines like he’d been skiing there since day one (he did). He parked his car in the same snowy lot they always parked in. They hauled their lunch to their lockers, pulled on their ski boots, hit some groomers, lunched on the deck under brilliant Montana winter sunshine that reflected and bounced off of freshly fallen snow, and watched Tippy’s, Ambush, Sliver Knife and Mr. K.

Lunch was Kettle potato chips, sandwiches, pickles and something out of a small plastic flask. Grandpa told stories about this place when it only had a handful of lifts—of when they first put in the gondola, of when it was just the condos in the Meadow, of horses, wildness and hot-air balloons… stories of when.

The mountains are still here, the snow still falls on the same lines, the wind still blows across Andesite Mountain, the moose still wander along the creek, but now, the place will always be different somehow: In part because of the condos blocking the view of his favorite run, in part because I looked more for the deep and steep than I do for long groomers, and in part because this special place is loaded with more old memories than new ones.

I hope to make new memories, but I will honor and cherish those that I have of this beautiful place where these beautiful people, my grandparents, lived. This is where I learned to ski. It’s because of them, what they gave, what they offered, how they loved us, and what they made here, that made part of me. I think it’s the part of me that loves these mountains—that loves fresh tracks as much as I do cutting corduroy, the part of me that slows the car for big horn sheep every time (even though they’re are on the same corner, every time).

My grandpa wore furry boots. He didn’t wear them to my wedding, but he was there and said he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.