The music was quieted on Brantford’s Robertson Avenue last Wednesday as friends and neighbours mourned the death of Jim Walsh.
Affectionately known by the name of his alter ego, clown “Jimbo the Hobo,” Mr. Walsh lost his eight-year battle with cancer at the Stedman Community Hospice. He was 72 years old.
“There will never be another Jim Walsh,” neighbour and friend Lorna Johnson said. “He was very special.”
Mr. Walsh helped raise about $500,000 for children battling serious and life-threatening illnesses through his tireless fundraising efforts, including the Jim Walsh Bike Ride for Kids and Help a Child Smile.
The home he shared with his wife of 50 years, Jenny, was filled with pictures of children Mr. Walsh met who later died of cancer.
“He said to me, ‘I made my peace and I can’t wait to see God and the children I helped over the years,’” Lorna’s husband Happy Johnson said. “He was so modest about all of the funds he raised, but so proud.”
A fundraising barbecue to thank Mr. Walsh for his efforts was hosted on Robertson Avenue last May and raised $5,000 for Help a Child Smile.
“Jim spent the whole day out there,” Happy said. “He hopped on my wheelchair and had about 100 people behind him doing the locomotion all up and down the street. He loved his music.”
The Johnsons moved into the neighbourhood about three years ago and became fast friends with Mr. Walsh and Jenny. Happy is an award-winning Elvis impersonator and Mr. Walsh would often drag his karaoke machine out of the house to sing along.
Mr. Walsh and Happy shared their last song shortly before Mr. Walsh’s death, when he was presented the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal at Stedman Community Hospice.
“He was to get his jubilee medal on Oct. 6,” Happy said. “I called (MP) Phil McColeman’s office and asked if there was any way they could give it to him before he passes.”
Mr. Walsh’s family and friends joined local politicians in his room on Sept. 21 to watch the presentation.
“I reached out and put my hand on his heart and started singing, Oh Danny Boy,” Happy said. “He tried to grab my arm and started to sit up and said ‘can I sing with you Elvis?’”
Happy and Lorna say they plan to carry on Mr. Walsh’s good works.
“We promised him we are going to carry on his Help a Child Smile as long as we can do it,” Happy said. “If I could do one-hundredth of what he’s done, I’d be happy.”
Mr. Walsh is survived by his wife, Jenny, their five adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held held at Evangel Church on Tuesday.