James Gillispie, 88James “Jimmer” Charles Gillispie, age 88, passed away at his home in Surprise, Arizona on December 4, 2011.
James “Jimmer” Charles Gillispie, age 88, passed away at his home in Surprise, Arizona on December 4, 2011. He divided his time between Surprise and Big Sky, Montana.
Jim was born January 11, 1923 to Dr. James and Rose Gillispie in Falls City, Nebraska. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy as a medical corpsman attached to the Marines (Fleet Marine) in the Pacific.
On August 17, 1944, he married Collette Hatfield. They lived in Alexandria for 23 years.
In May 1972, Jim heard about a new ski resort being created in Montana by newscaster Chet Huntley. Wanting to be a part of this new endeavor, Jim loaded his 1962 Chevy Impala with Bruno, his German shepherd, and headed west to what was to become Big Sky. The following August, Collette followed with the family belongings in a U-Haul.
When they first arrived, the resort was still under construction, making them some of the first settlers. Jim first worked at the Yellow Mule as a bartender in Meadow Village. When Jim asked Chet who was going to run the bars on the mountain, Chet said, “Speak up for yourself.” So, Jimmer’s Brass Bell and Caboose came to be a Big Sky tradition. An article in Ski Magazine referred to the spiral staircase from the Brass Bell down to the Caboose as “the steepest vertical descent in Big Sky.”
Jim recalled a time when Chet Huntley decided to make the very first long-distance call on Big Sky’s new telephone. He wanted to call London and record the call to play back in his news broadcast. He dialed the operator and told her the number he wanted in London. The operator asked, “Who’s calling, please?” He answered, “This is Chet Huntley in Big Sky, Montana.” The operator said, “You’ve got to be kidding,” and hung up.
After nearly two decades of operating the Brass Bell and Caboose and the Black Otter at the Arnold Palmer Golf Course, Jim and Collette retired and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Japan, England and Hawaii.
Jimmer was preceded in death by his wife, Collette.
He is survived by his children, Janet Neils (husband, Roger) of Clear Lake, Mike Gillispie (wife, Tona) of Mankato, and Cindy Gillispie of Leander, Texas.
Memorial donations may be made in Jimmer’s name to the Big Sky Chapel, PO Box 160792, Big Sky MT 59716.