I did not want any more time to pass without saying goodbye to Jim Lester; and more than goodbye, I want to say thank you.
Driving through town today, weather permitting, you may have seen flags posted along the streets. These flags are often placed in the early hours of special days by the dedicated members of the local Lions Club, and they flew today to honor a member and valued local citizen, Jim Lester, who passed away on Dec. 30, 2020.
If you find yourself reading this letter, I surmise that you have chosen to make your home here in the San Gorgonio Pass and possibly right here in Beaumont, as I have. For some years now, Beaumont has been undergoing a transformation and expansion from a small quiet town where most folks knew each other’s families, and for long-timers, if I gave you directions telling you to take 14th Street to Tin Can Hill you wouldn’t blink an eye.
The small hometown feel of Beaumont isn’t just happenstance but rather the product of many good people who have made their lives here, who have raised their families, made friends, gone to church, joined civic organizations, become active in city government and fulfilled their civic obligation, which makes the social fabric that blankets our town.
I am a firm believer that in order to maintain this small-town feel, it is important to remind our fellow citizens, both new and old, of some of the people who lived their lives here and helped make the place I am proud to call home. Jim Lester is exactly the kind of person I am speaking of.
Like many people here now, Jim was not born locally but came to Beaumont around the age of 6 or 7 from Canada with his family as they sought medical treatment for one of Jim’s sisters. After graduation from Beaumont High School, while still a Canadian citizen, he joined the United States Marine Corps and volunteered for Vietnam. Jim honorably earned two Purple Hearts while serving in the 1st Marine Division during his tour of duty. Around this time, Jim married Donna Alexander, and they really became a two-for-one deal; looking back now, it was a rare occasion that I would run into Jim without also seeing Donna close by. Jim and Donna are parents to James Alexander Lester.
My path intersected with Jim as a board member of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, where Jim advocated for local small businesses knowing first hand their importance having owned his own small business here in town, Liberty Sporting Arms.
Jim was also a member of the Lions Club. I would be remiss not to mention Jim becoming a United States citizen in 1972.
If there is a checklist for service, Jim Lester checks all the boxes: military service, member of charitable civic organizations, husband, father, small business owner and genuinely good guy.
Jim did these things not for accolades but because they needed doing. So as you go about your daily life and you come across a flag, please take a brief moment to remember Jim Lester and all the other good people from our town who have gone before, and give thanks for the service they provided, which has made this town a place we are proud to call home.
My sincerest condolences to Donna Lester and a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to Jim.
Sean Balingit, Beaumont