Thursday, August 20, 2015

Remembering Jim Gaston

For starters I'll acknowledge that I should just call him Jim. That's how Jim Gaston introduced himself, and whether he was the honored guest at a grand conservation event or roaming Gaston's Resort to chat with guests, he said he was "just Jim." I always had trouble just calling him Jim, though, and I suppose I still do. As the gracious host of the events I attended and a man who did so much for conservation, his area's economy and the people around him, he deserved respect, and I have always thought of him as Mr. Gaston.

Mr. Gaston died a little more than month ago, while I was at the ICAST show in Orlando. He's been on my mind for the past couple of days, maybe because I've been thinking about possible Arkansas travel plans, and I wanted to take a moment to recognize him. I didn't know Mr. Gaston very well, but you wouldn't have known that if you'd ever seen him greet me -- always with the welcoming smile and the demeanor of an old family friend. But then again, if you were to have kept watching, you'd have seen that he welcomed everyone that way and that he gave every individual he spoke with his full attention.

My time with Mr. Gaston was all at Gaston's White River Resort, and mostly at a writers' gathering that the resort puts on each spring. He always asked if I was enjoying my visit, and it was obvious by his tone and facial expression that he wasn't just asking the question he was supposed to ask. He really wanted to know if I was enjoying my stay, and if there was anything he could have done to make a visit better, he'd have done it himself.

I remember Mr. Gaston talking about photography with a friend, Glenn Wheeler, and the conversation turning to a certain super-zoom lens that Mr. Gaston really liked and that Glenn had not tried. Mr. Gaston excused himself without explanation, disappeared for a moment, and returned carrying a five-digit-cost lens, which he handed over to Glenn to take out in the boat and try on his own cameras that afternoon.

I won't attempt to list Jim Gaston's achievements. Others are much better qualified for that and have done so in other forms. Suffice to say that the beautiful visitor's center that overlooks the White River at Bull Shoals Dam carries his name for good reason. I only knew "just Jim" and his warmth and graciousness, and I miss him already.

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