Services Held for James Guimond ’72, Former Leo Basketball Star, Iowa Sports Broadcaster

Former Southwest Side man died suddenly on Aug. 30. Services held Thursday in Iowa. James Guimond owned Fort Dodge Redemption Center.

By Patch Chicago (Patch Staff) Updated September 4, 2014 at 3:20 am
Services Held for James Guimond, Former Leo Basketball Star, Iowa Sports Broadcaster

By BILL FIGEL 

James Guimond passed away unexpectedly on August 30 at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa. He was 60 years old.

Guimond was born in Evergreen Park, on July 10, 1954 and raised in Chicago, where he starred as a lightweight basketball player at Leo High School.

In his own way he was tough like the Southeast Side, steel mill neighborhood where he was raised and worked as a boy. Like his brothers and dad, he battled Chicago winters while helping run the family street corner newspaper stand. This is a forgotten era, though a few wooden frames still populate the Chicago corners near the empty, silent mills. When not playing ball, the young Guimonds hustled to waiting cars with hefty Daily News papers on Saturday afternoons and Chicago Tribunes on Sunday morning.

Known as “Cheese” to most of his teammates, Guimond starred for three years as the point guard for Leo’s lightweight basketball team. He captained the team his senior year and led the Lions to the championship game at DePaul’s Alumni Hall. Leo lost the title game to Fenwick, a better team.

James Guimond, Sophomore 1970

James Guimond, Sophomore 1970

Raised in Our Lady Gate of Heaven parish, his first teammate at Leo, Ed Phelan, described him as “ultra-competitive.” Guimond showed his steely nerves as a sophomore, winning the 1970 Chicago Catholic League free throw contest by making 96 out of 100, and, at one point, 80 consecutive free throws.

His Chicago friends embraced his quirky nature and to this day relish in the memories of a man who began his own green initiatives before it was popular; e.g.: thank you notes written on mass mailing pieces.

For those who knew Guimond best, there was a peak into his dark misery – the loss of his older brother, Paul, an Army Staff Sergeant in the Vietnam War. The news came while he was playing basketball in a summer league game at the Chicago Park District. The support of his teammates was subtle and unspoken, much like the motto of his beloved school: Facta Non Verba! (Deeds, Not Words).

Another teammate, Bill Dorrington, who had never discussed his brother’s death with him, recently made a singular trek to find the name “Paul Guimond” on the Vietnam Memorial wall.

Things could have been simpler for him.They were not. He was faced with being two sons at once for his grieving parents.

His classmate and dear friend, John Hector, confirmed his brother’s loss was “a heavy burden,” but Hector was quick to relay all the other aspects of Cheese’s life that brought joy to their friendship. According to Hector:

Guimond remained loyal to the Leo Lions to the point that when they won the state basketball title in 2004, he painted his fingernails orange and black. He would have been about 50 at the time.

Because of his job in Iowa, Guimond was into recycling before most Americans, and he practiced what he preached. He would always write letters to me (before the days of email), and they would be written on grocery receipts or the back of his kids’ homework assignments or anything that could absorb ink. And the letters often wouldn’t have “Fort Dodge” on the return address – only “The Fort.”

Classmate Mike McElherne weighed in with this from Turkey:

“I admired Cheese for many reasons,” said McElherne. “But none so much as his ability to maximize the use of a piece of paper. Although I consider myself an obsessive recycler and a strong environmentalist, he made me look wasteful. He once sent me a friendly note after a Leo Alumni Banquet where we had just reconnected.”

This anecdote from his dearest friend, Don Borreson, reveals another side:

“Whenever Cheez came to town (Atlanta), he’d insist that we go by several Denny’s, Perkins or IHOP diners — though we rarely ate at them — so he could go back to the grill and tip each short-order cook $10. Quirky? Sure — but also completely genuine.”

According to friends, when Guimond settled in Ft. Dodge, there was little known about him, other than that he married into an established family and served as a father figure to his wife’s children. The couple had a son of their own.

  • On occasion he would arrive for the Leo Alumni banquet proudly wearing his basketball practice jersey from senior year. He also donned a sport coat so it took on a sort of Clark Kent-meets-Leo look.
  • Cheese didn’t wear it to show off because it still fit, but, rather, he wore it like Superman wears his shield. It made him feel invincible.

Guimond was involved in sports broadcasting in Fort Dodge on AM 1400 KVFD for a number of years after moving there in 1977. The family owned and operated the Fort Dodge Redemption Center for many years, the funeral home obituary said.

Guimond is survived by his daughters, Stacey (Mark) Danevicz of Grand Rapids, MI; Danielle Althaus of Waterloo; Stephanie (Brad) Swanson of Harcourt; son, Eric Guimond of Waterloo; grandchildren, Malachi, Zachary, Aaron, James, Mylee, Joey, Nicholas, Max, and one due to arrive in 2 weeks; brother, Everal (Janie) Guimond of Sullivan, IN; and a sister, Judith (Ron) Berkowski of Chicago, IL.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Lionel and Geraldine (Richards) Guimond; and a brother, Paul Guimond.

Services were held Sept. 4 in Fort Dodge, IA. Burial followed at Memorial Park Cemetery. Arrangements were by Laufersweiler Sievers.

 

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