Remembering Jim Molloy
Jim Molloy was a familiar face around the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12, as well as Legion events for decades. He was the parade marshal up until last year, and read the roll call, by memory, during memorial services. Molloy died on Sunday, Aug. 4 at his home in Grand Falls-Windsor. — Photo by Krysta Carroll/The Advertiser
“You’re a fine young lad, Stand easy.” This is how James (Jim) Molloy would end every communication with his friend, Si Thompson, president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 12.
His quick response and sharp wit are on a long list of things Thompson said he will miss.
Molloy, a Second World War veteran who was born in Grand Falls in 1926, died in his home on Sunday, just weeks away from his 87th birthday.
Anyone visiting the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 12 on Queen Street in Grand Falls-Windsor will find many treasures.
The walls are covered in photographs, war memorabilia and artifacts to rival any museum.
This is thanks to Molloy, under his guidance and largely due to his passion.
Anyone who needed information on war history, particularly of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and its role in major armed conflicts of the 20th century, could always count on Molloy.
His wealth of information, great intellect, and inquiring mind, were noted by anyone who met him.
He was known as an amateur war historian, though Thompson would beg to differ on the “amateur” part.
“He was very knowledgeable on any and all aspects of any of all artifacts of items that we received,” Thompson said.
“They were stored and looked after appropriately. That’s why Branch 12 has been advertised in travel agencies as a military museum.”
In 1944, a little earlier than he was of age, Molloy enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army and served until the end of the war.
As a returning war veteran, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, N.S., followed by qualifications for chemical engineering at Nova Scotia Tech in Halifax.
He then returned home where he began his career as a chemical engineer with the A.N.D. Co. mill, serving for much of his four decades there as the superintendent of the sulphite department.
This is where Thompson’s first memory of Molloy took place, back when Thompson was fresh out of Grade 11 and had summer employment at the mill.
Thompson was told to go wash the digesters in the acid plant where they were using acids to break up the pulp.
“I was down there with a respirator on and a big fire hose washing down ... and this little man comes in (and asked), ‘How are things going?’” Thompson said. “I tried to communicate with him (through the mask). I took off the mask to talk to him, because he never had one on, and I just about choked. He was there like it was fresh air. Conditioned, it’s called.”
Shortly afterwards, Thompson said he was involved in the militia where Molloy was the company commander. Molloy was involved for decades, during which time the regiment was doing much community work, and in 2000 he was appointed an honorary member.
“Basically Jim was always there,” Thompson said, adding it is only recently he actually started calling him Jim, as he was always Col. Molloy.
He noted Molloy’s wealth of knowledge, even from earlier correspondence, to all aspects of anything he was involved in.
“With regard to the Legion, he was a walking computer,” Thompson said. “We used to call it encyclopedias. His mind was just the same as Google. You Google Jim.”
No matter what it was, he knew exactly what you were talking about, Thompson said. He even wrote, until recently, a column for The Advertiser on important dates in military history.
“The Branch, the historical aspect of it, I don’t say it will ever be lost, but you don’t have the personal touch that Jim had,” Thompson said.
“Every item of memorabilia down there I’m sure he was responsible for it, and he therefore knew exactly where it was, and the history behind it.”
He would even provide tours for children from primary to high school through the Legion museum, Thompson said, and at times, do presentations at schools.
Molloy was a member of the Legion, and served in an executive capacity at Branch 12 for 50 years, Thompson said, adding he was one of the first members of the branch. At the time of his death, he was the secretary.
“If you wanted anything done, call on Jim,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a big adjustment back to the branch. Right now we’ll have to take up the slack ourselves to some extent.”
The Legion did not come into play until 1949-1950, Thompson said, and before that time, Molloy was involved in the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA).
“Right after the war he got involved in the Great War Veterans Association, so he had years of experience with that and that carried over into the Legion aspect of it,” Thompson said.
“Over the years, lets face it, Jim was the mainstay. He was not only the local historian; he was the historian anyway,” Thompson said.
Molloy also represented the local Branch on a provincial level, was one of the first to advocate for the commemoration of veterans of the Armed Forces, and was the recipient of numerous awards for volunteer work with veterans.
“Some call it a void. I don’t. I call it a black hole to fill because we all know in a black hole information just goes out, nothing coming back,” Thompson said.
“It’s going to be hard to get an individual with his credentials, drive and initiative, to be able to take it upon themselves to do the things that he did.
“We’ll all kick ourselves in the long run for not paying more attention to all the things that he used to say about certain artifacts and different items, because unlike Jim, most of us do not have that type of memory.”
Molloy’s daughter, Anne Molloy, said his amazing intellect and wit were his most distinguishing characteristics.
“He was very quick witted, both in his writing and even in his speaking,” she said.
“He was a great storyteller and very entertaining. He also had, in some ways, a gruff exterior, but he was one of the most extraordinarily kind of people I’ve known. He was my hero.”
She said her father would do the roll call for memorial services, and he knew, by memory, every single person, the war and the Branch they served in.
Her father loved his town and the people who live there, she said.
“He was a complete Newfoundlander,” she said. “He was born in Grand Falls, and he had opportunities from time to time to move away. ... He always refused. He always said the best place in the world to live was Grand Falls, and he was already there.”
Molloy served as a town councillor from 1973-77. In addition, he was a saxophone player and loved music, particularly military band music.
He also was a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, and loved dogs, especially his rambunctious chocolate Lab named Coco, who could be seen in the passenger seat driving around with Molloy up until recent weeks.
Molloy will be greatly missed by his wife Pat, his brother and sister, his children and grandchildren, his many close friends in Grand Falls-Windsor and beyond, and by Coco.
A memorial service, conducted by the Legion, will be held at the Beaumont Hamel Armories on this afternoon at 3 p.m., with a reception to follow at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 12.
“In essence basically, it’s a military send-off tribute,” Thompson said.
“We will definitely miss Jim. Myself in particular because I don’t have anybody that I can fall back on at the snap of a finger. He was always there. He spent just as much time at the Legion as he did at home.”
“So it is the reason why we are having the service at the Armories where he spent many, many years. Then we are going back to have the reception at the Legion.”