James Benjamin Wescott
James Benjamin Wescott, a man whose athletic grace was matched only by the grace of his demeanor, died May 27 at age 71. His children carry his spirit in who they are and what they do: Sarah, a counselor, inspires families and individuals to grow through body-oriented psychotherapy, and Seth, a professional snowboarder, embodies the strength and determination that for 37 years Jim helped student athletes to develop.
Born April 29, 1943, to Ada James Wescott and Benjamin Walter Wescott, Jim was raised in Dover, N.H., where his parents ran The Big Dipper, an ice-cream shop his father founded. Working at the restaurant instilled in Jim a profound, lifelong work ethic. At Dover High School he played basketball and, unbeknownst to his worried mother, football. A track and field decathlete, Jim earned the title of New Hampshire State Champion in 1961, the year he graduated.
Jim pursued his interest in athletics through college at Plymouth State and a master's program at Indiana University, from which he graduated in 1966. That year he became head track and field and cross-country coach at North Carolina State. Eager to return to his New England roots, Jim and his family moved to Maine in 1978 when he was named head track and field coach at Colby College. Jim led by example, quietly striving for his personal best just as he asked his athletes to do. And, through small gestures like helping the physical plant department rototill the pit or take down hurdles at the end of the meet, he demonstrated his generous nature and commitment to fairness. Jim’s athletes became like family—he cared for them beyond the confines of their roles, and they served as “a parade of big brothers” to his children.
Jim’s investment in young people extended beyond his career. An active community member in Belfast, Farmington, Waterville and Vassalboro, he served as a mentor for public school students, as a board member at the Waldo County YMCA, and he helped to launch the Waldo County YMCA Family Triathlon Festival. But, more than anything, he reveled in witnessing the growth and accomplishments of children—those he mentored and his own.
In 1996-97 Jim and his wife, Jo Wescott, spent his sabbatical year in Christchurch, New Zealand. He cherished the opportunity to coach in a different culture and hike in a different landscape—and the couple built memories that lasted their lifetimes. Upon Jim’s retirement in 2003, Jim took up swimming and, inspired by his son, snowboarding. He was an avid rower, and he pursued that passion, ultimately rowing in the Head of the Charles Regatta at age 70 and through his final moments of life.
Inspired by his qualities of sensitivity, optimism, levity, strength and integrity are his wife, Jo Hamp Wescott, of Belfast; his daughter, Sarah Wescott, her husband, David Goldman, and their daughter, Zora Goldman, of San Raphael, Calif.; his son, Seth Wescott of Carrabassett Valley; their mother, Margaret Gould Wescott of Farmington; and his late sister and late brother-in-law Bonnie Goodwin and her husband Tony Goodwin and their children, Amy Hillis and Jonathan Goodwin of Georgia.
A memorial service will take place Saturday, July 26, at 11 a.m. at The First Church in Belfast, UCC, 8 Court St., in Belfast, Maine. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Captain Albert Stevens School Mentoring Program, 31 Elementary Ave., Belfast; Waldo County YMCA 157 Lincolnville Ave., Belfast; and Maine Rowing Association 51 Lakeside Drive, Falmouth. Arrangements are under the care of Riposta Funeral Home 182 Waldo Ave. Belfast. Memories and condolences may be offered to the family at www.ripostafh.com.