In Passing: James T. (Big Jim) Valitsky

JAMES T. (BIG JIM) VALITSKY

In memory of James T. (Big Jim) Valitsky. May 23, 1947—September 26, 2012. Jim was born and raised in Connecticut. He proudly served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Korea. After his discharge, he became a firefighter for the town of West Hartford, CT. After retiring, he and his wife Candace moved to Port Orange, FL. Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing and trapping, and at one time, also ran coon hounds. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Candace, and two brothers, Joseph and Robert Valitsky, and is survived by his son Michael Valitsky, and wife Erin of MA, and grandson Tucker, also of MA.

I first met Jim at a CT Trappers Convention during the fur boom in the early 1980’s. I was impressed at his stature as CTA President, and his positive attitude towards trapping. He became my mentor, and talked me into a vacant CTA Vice President position. This was a time when trapping was good, fur prices were high, and Animal Rights Activist’s were very active against trapping. They were looking for something (anything) to permanently stop all trapping in Connecticut. I happened to get myself involved in a telephone interview with a reporter from a local newspaper. He wanted a trapper’s point of view of the ARA’s crusade against trapping, and I gave it to him. But when it came out in the newspaper, it was way out of context, and a week later, I was sued for Libel for two million dollars. They (The ARA’s) were waiting for something like this. I thought, “good grief! What did I get myself into!” But to show Jim’s character, he made a statement to another local newspaper backing me up 100%. No questions asked. I was very happy and relieved that Jim acted the way he did. But then he was sued for two million dollars as well. I must say, at this time, that Jim was the most honest man I have ever met. He told me not to worry, and it eased my mind somewhat. We both went to the NTA Convention at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Jim as the NTA director, and myself as Alternate Director. Bernie Sarafin was up on the stage, making a pitch to trappers to sign up as NTA members. He then introduced Jim as “The Two Million Dollar Trapper.” Jim told our story to the crowd, and made a plea for contributions so that we may fight the lawsuits, and fight we did. Donations poured in from many State Trapper’s Associations, for which trappers in Connecticut will be forever grateful. After about a year of litigation, the lawsuits finally ended. The ARA’s never intended to go all the way. It cost the CTA about $25,000 in legal fees to fight it. Our lawyer said we were harassed by the ARA’s, so let’s sue them for that. We did, and we won. That lawsuit cost us $10,000. Did we really win? And Jim would say “We are still standing and trapping.” Through all of this, Jim and I became fast friends, and established a trap line together for several years. We had some adventures that remain with me now. We trapped on about six miles of river, and lots of swamp land, that we navigated in my 15ft. Canoe. Now picture this: Big Jim, all 280lbs, on a 6½ foot frame, in the stern of the canoe, and me, a lightweight in the bow, three feet off the water. We set up about 100 traps, mostly for Muskrat, and a few for coon. The next day, we were back on the river, and started picking up our catch. At one spot, I got out of the canoe, and Jim went ahead about 200 feet. I was checking on two torn up Muskrats, when I heard Jim yell!! I turned to seem him flying over the side of the canoe, backwards, arms up in the air. A perfect backward swan dive. Then he went under and caused a mini-tsunami. I thought to myself, “how in the world am I ever going to drag him out of the river!” He had waiters on, and no doubt hey were full of water. But then he bobbed up holding his glasses in hand, and spurting out water. What a relief, to see him come up like that. He said “I stepped out the deep side of the canoe.” And then it started to float away down river. I caught up with it after about a 100 yard chase, while Jim swam to the edge and crawled out of the river. He nonchalantly said “I needed to cool off a bit.” Our total take that memorable day, was 61 Muskrats, 5 Coon and 1 mink. I will never forget that adventure. Jim and I communicated by phone every now and then. He said he joined the Florida Trappers Assoc. I thought, sure. He’s down in the everglades hunting alligators. When Jim passed away last Fall, it left a large hole in my life, and I’m sure it is the same for all that knew “Big Jim.” Because he was just “That Kind of Guy.” Always a Gentleman. God Speed, Jim.

— Submitted by Robert Kukuck

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