James L. Belote, 73, firefighter
On March 9, 2017, James L. Belote of Spireview Road in Ridgefield, CT, passed away after living a life where dedication, workmanship, and devotion were the main inspirations for all he did.
Jim was born on November 25, 1943, to parents Madelyn and James, who moved to Ridgefield shortly thereafter. As a child, Jim attended school at the Venus Building and spent his afternoons at the Ridgefield Boys Club, supervised by local and longtime friend Ralph Crouchley. (His lifelong love of and dedication to the club developed into him becoming a woodshop instructor for the members from 1957-1985, contributing both time and care into the lives of many.) After growing up in the town with his younger brother Tom (deceased), he attended and graduated from The Citadel (Class of 1966) under the direction and guidance of Lt. Colonel Thomas "The Boo" Courvoisie, a professor with whom he kept in touch with until the Lieutenant’s death in 2006.
Inspired by the Lt.’s example, Jim committed his life to teaching others and giving back to the community and his family. He began by carving out a career as an elementary school Biology and Chemistry teacher to many of the town’s residents for years, working to help his brother Tom through college and law school. During that time, he met, fell in love with, and married fellow elementary teacher Janet Bilik, his wife until his passing, and had two daughters with her, Lauren and Jennifer.
A lifelong resident, Ridgefield was a town he held near to his heart for his entire life, dedicating many aspects of his work to its development not only in teaching but also in serving on many of the town’s and state’s fire and safety groups. He was a member of the Ridgefield Fire Department for 50 years, a past chief, and a safety/Haz-Mat training officer for the majority of the town’s probationary members. Finding a kindred spirit amongst the firemen and fostering a love of education, he managed to balance these two aspects of his character by serving as a State Fire Warden (since 1967), a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor (for 44 years), and a Connecticut Fire Police Training Director and lifetime member (where he also served as Vice President and President). He served on The Citadel Alumni Association Board from 1995-2012, fostering a love of the school with local alumni and reaching out to admitted cadets, assuring them that their future commitment to the school was indeed the right choice.
With an enormous heart for his town and its caring and colorful residents, he gave back to the community in any way that he could, which included serving as a town EMT for 43 years. Developing an extensive knowledge of construction culled from years of swinging a hammer, he created and ran a construction company for 29 years, designing and building many structures in the town that still stand to this day (including his own house and the new Ridgefield firehouse). Filling his home with every possible tool for the job and a preparation for any emergency in existence, he raised his children to be independent and resourceful, a skill he modeled and passed on to others whenever he could. He kept close ties with his stepbrother Fred (deceased) and stepsister Sarah, and not only congregated with the multitude of relatives he had in the area, but also gathered with them all at Christmas to treat them to his famous shrimp scampi.
At any given moment, his home was filled with the sounds of either the emergency band radio or the national news television stations, or often times the cacophony of both, as he loved to be well-informed about local and national events. In his free time, he tinkered with classic cars and served on the Board of Managers Classic Car Club of America for 12 years. Whether steadily pulling in with his 1947 Cadillac convertible or his 1968 Mustang, there was nary a local car show missed, as he loved to be in the midst of people, soaking up their excitement. Often found having breakfast and laughing it up with his core group of friends at the Early Bird, the town’s breakfast hangout, he enjoyed debating a wide variety of topics, most of which revolved around the strange state of national politics or the ride he was taking on the stock market. An enjoyable conversationalist, his smile was infectious, his handshake firm, and his warmth boundless. He will be missed by many, but especially by his family.
He is survived by his loving wife, his two discerning and intelligent daughters, and his two spirited grandchildren, Elizabeth and Timothy, whom he doted upon as often as he could.
Friends will be received on Thursday, March 16, 2017 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at Kane Funeral Home; 25 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield. Interment will be private and at the direction of the family.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes that donations be made to The Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department (6 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877) or The Citadel Alumni Association (171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409).