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Haitian Earthquake Victims - This One’s for You, James

Update - February 6, 2010

After I wrote this post, many of James' friends and family thanked me for focusing on the positive - the beauty James brought to those around him, rather than the tragic way he was taken from us. But this week a memorial in Haiti for fallen UN victims made me realize that I missed something important in my first post.

Fallen UN Haiti Staff - Courtesy United Nations Flickr PhotostreamFallen UN Haiti Staff - Courtesy United Nations Flickr PhotostreamFallen UN Haiti Staff - Courtesy United Nations Flickr PhotostreamAs a civilian staff member of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), James made it his livelihood to support peace and promote a better life for Haitians.

An adventurer at heart, James understood the dangers he faced.

So, this update is simply a thank you. He gave of himself the same way a soldier does - freely and without an accounting of debts paid or owed. When I wear a yellow ribbon over my heart, I do it as much for James as I do it for all who defend what they believe in with their lives.

Thank you James.

Please continue reading below for my original post on James W. Coates.  

Tribute to a special person who touched my life...

On January 12, 2010, a monstrous earthquake shattered Port au Prince in Haiti. A friend and former co-worker, James W. Coates, was working in the UN building at the time as an information officer. For 11 days we've been holding out hope that James survived and was just too busy helping the injured to contact home.

But hope died when his body was recovered and identified on January 21 - 9 days after the quake.

James W. CoatesJames W. CoatesThis post is not about the earthquake. It's not about Haiti. It's about friendship.


I sat beside James for almost a year - we were cubicle buddies. He was my national park expert, intrepid traveler and field correspondent. I watched him quit smoking (and start again) take a free press trip (someone's going to pay me to travel? he asked) and grow from being a timid writer to a polished writer who earned his byline.

Our team was small - and made of incredibly diverse personalities - and James was no exception. And while we were all creative and temperamental, James was the duck on our team - he was best at letting the stress run off his back (like water).

He lusted after travel the way a cook lusts after the perfect olive oil. He always wanted more - and I loved him for that. Before joining our team, James had seen more of the world than most people do in a lifetime - but he was eager to continue exploring.

Even with a 9-5 desk job, he found ways to travel, Montreal, New York, Berea Kentucky (where learned more than he ever wanted to know about Colonel Sanders).

James always arrived early at work (as did I) and instead of getting down to work, we chatted. Our conversations ran the gamut of everything in life - and nothing was off limits. It has become a time I'll cherish more than I ever considered at the time. I want to share a few life lessons according to James.

  • Every adventure is worth jumping into - with your whole body. If you want to do it, then do it and enjoy every second of it - even if you're scared out of your mind.
  • Women get better with age. He once told me women in their 20's are beautiful just because. But a woman in 30's and 40's, well she has maturity and flavour that only comes with age.
  • Just because you want to run in a marathon doesn't mean you have to give up drinking...
  • Go on press trips. Soak up every opportunity and sleep when you get home.
  • It's fun to get free stuff to review on the blog - and it's fun to share with others.

James W. CoatesJames W. CoatesWhen James left the company we worked for, he gave me a pair of jogging sunglasses. I still wear them in the summer, when I just want to run and not think about anything in particular.


I will miss you, James, and I'm thankful you came into my life.

Hope. Pray.Give.

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Thanks for sharing this story about James; you can tell he was a dear friend indeed. He seemed like the type of person who relished every minute in life. He leaves a shortened legacy but not without lasting impact. Best to you my friend.

Thanks for the beautiful words, Jim. He will be missed by so many, but you are so correct about his legacy. We all need to take a page out of his fearless book and learn from it. Julia

This was my first time hearing of our loss. Well written Julia. James was a very friendly easy going guy, and it was a pleasure to work with him. I'm happy I had the chance to get to know him. Rest in Peace James - my thoughts are with your loved ones.

Thanks for visiting, Ryan, I was thinking of you when I hunted down the video at Nomadik. James was so in his element at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto that weekend - and you guys did a great job editing the videos. And thank for sharing your grief over his death - he will be missed by so many people. Julia

What a beautiful tribute! He sounds like an amazing and wise man... And a wonderful friend. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for your kind words, Monica. The grief over the earthquake in Haitis growing and overwhelming - and there's so much for all of us to do - now and for a long time. Julia

A truly touching tribute.....thanks for sharing with us your beautiful friendship. James sounds like a genuinely fun, passionate and interesting man.

Thank you Maybelline - you would have adored James - a free spirit just like you! I'm sorry you never met him, but I appreciate your sharing in our grief over his death. Julia

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