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Harry James

Harry James

Over the past year or more, Harry James has played an integral role in ECRT’s successful bridge redecking and restoration efforts in the Town of Concord. He was named, he tells me, after his father, Harry James, and not in homage to the famous jazz trumpeter and big band leader, Harry James. Both Harrys, however — ours and the jazz legend — share a common key to their shared success on the job: They can improvise! 

According to ECRT Board member Kathleen McCrone, his improvisational skills and talent as an on-the-spot problem-solver came in handy more than once when critical adjustments in materials and measurements were needed to resolve unforeseen construction problems. “It was amazing watching Harry tackle a problem. First, his eyes would light up, he’d take a step or two back and we could almost see the gears turning in his brain. After a few moments of contemplation, he’d grab some tools, lumber, and a few volunteers and confidently get busy creating a perfect solution.”

Harry grew up in Saranac Lake, where his mom ran the corner store and his selfemployed dad had both winter and summer jobs. “When you live in the Adirondacks year-round, you need to be versatile,” he noted, obviously an inherited skill. As a young man, Harry enjoyed venturing on foot or by bike to places not always on any map and sometimes considerable distances from home — “wherever a bike or my feet could take me” — Harry recalls. He loved to fish and was snowmobiling by the age of 14.  “And I was always busy building or making things. To this day, I consider ‘creating’ my strongest interest and skill.”

Harry attended SUNY@ Canton where he studied engineering. During the course of his career, he applied his skills working for Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, Carrier Corporation, Corning Glass Company, and Budweiser. He retired in 2021 after 30 years with the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project. 

Harry is a 30-year member of the Western New York Snowmobile Club of Boston and the organization’s current vice president. Here he met fellow bridge-building partner John Baronich, a former principal and shop teacher. Together, with the able assistance of other retired regulars interested in construction, they were able to successfully redeck and restore a total of seven bridges. “The new decking is basically an even floor with no gaps. The goal was to make these bridges usable for everybody — not just snowmobiles.”

Today, Harry remains an avid builder/creator and bicyclist. He owns bikes for every season and surface.  To his credit and for pleasure, he participated in both the 2021 and 2022 EA2EVL Fondo events, the non-competitive fundraising bike ride from East Aurora to Ellicottville to benefit the ECRT trail. As far as the trail is concerned, Harry believes, “If you build it, they will come. There are lots of places to explore and enjoy here. It’s great when you see businesses interested and involved in the trial. I think you help communities grow by building and supporting cottage industries. You know, people will drive (or bike) to go to breakfast if the food is good!” 

February 1, 2023

Written by:

Deb Fenn

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