Jim Johnson was born in 1959 in Lethbridge, Alta. He is the oldest of four in his family, with two sisters, Sandra and Allison, and a younger brother, Bill. His parents, Bud and Betty Johnson, moved to Fernie when he was in the seventh grade, as it was Betty’s hometown and they had lots of family in the area.
Bud worked as a truck driver for a logging company while his mother was a substitute teacher. Jim remembers a childhood spent outdoors, roaming the woods surrounding Fernie.
“Where we used to hang out in the trees and have our bush parties, there are now houses,” he says.
Jim was an avid skier growing up, and loved anything outdoors, such as fishing and hunting. It is a passion he still has today.
Jim graduated from Fernie Secondary School, then located where 901 Fernie currently stands, in 1977. He left Fernie after graduation, and moved to a variety of cities, including Vancouver, Lethbridge and Lloydminster, where he worked in the oil industry. He moved into the auto industry, working at dealerships before settling in the central Alberta area, around Lacombe. Jim, then a father of three, met Loretta at a dance in the early 1990s. The two have now been married for 21 years and together have one son, Riley.
In 2006, a business opportunity presented itself to Jim and Loretta, to manage the Ford dealership in Fernie. They took the opportunity and Jim moved back to Fernie on December 24, 2006.
“We started unloading furniture in a major snowstorm,” he remembers.
They recently got out of the car industry, leaving Fernie Ford in the spring of 2015. In September, they opened Kootenay Sign Source, moving the business from Sparwood to Fernie. Jim says he and Loretta try to give back to the community whenever possible and support a number of community initiatives. They have donated all of the signs for the Eirin Amundsen Memorial Pavilion, among other community causes.
Jim also says they enjoy the slower pace of their new business, and are able to have more time to enjoy their hobbies.
As for his hobbies, Jim is an avid fisherman, who spends his vacations with a rod in his hand. He has a “bucket list” of fish he would like to catch, and travels to tropical locations to look for the fish. Some of his notable catches include a 300 lb blue marlin in Hawaii and 100 lb sailfish in Mexico. He has also caught a sturgeon and is venturing to the Fraser River in the fall to attempt to catch another. For the most part, Jim likes to catch and release. To him, it’s more about the hunt than the reward.
While Jim also enjoys golf, he knows where his strengths are.
“I’m way better of a fisherman than a golfer,” he says, adding he fishes year round, and can be found ice fishing in the dead of winter.
After returning to his hometown in 2006, he says the town has gone through noticeable changes; most prominently, the development and the tourism industry.
“When we went fishing on the river, we wouldn’t see anyone else,” he says, citing his youth. There is one element of his childhood that is still embedded in the tapestry of Fernie – the love of the outdoors.
“I think it’s a big part of the life around here,” he says.
His love of the outdoors and fishing, along with his roots in Fernie, make Jim a “natural” choice for this week’s “Face of the Valley.”