Hey, Spike! recalls that colorful, fun-loving JB
Special to the Daily
A longtime, popular Breckenridge-ski-patroller-turned-Twisted-Pine-retail-entrepreneur — Jim “JB” Besterfeldt — saved others but didn’t have anyone around to help him.
At 66, the always smiling, enthusiastic JB died of a massive heart attack in early May out in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez Conception Bay, just off his el Burro Beach palapa property between Mulege and Loreto on the Baja.
I was way north of the Arctic Circle, off the coast of Norway, when I got word via text that JB had died.
Our mutual friend and fellow boater, Bob Alster (aka Capt. Bob-West) of Grand Junction, formerly of Frisco, sent word in this cellphone text: “JB found dead in Mexico.”
Quickly texting back for details, Bob followed up, and his auto-corrected message said cryptically: “Not yet, he was found floating with his seafood circling.”
Clarified quickly, we determined the message should have read “sea-doo” (Jet Ski) instead of the auto-changed “seafood.”
Knowing JB like we all do, he would burst out laughing at this one.
Even with that, it’s still tough news to absorb.
JB’s brother Bob (aka Capt. Bob-East) traveled to Mexico to claim his body.
While many of us around here knew him since the 1970s and early ’80s, it’s a guy named John Phelan who got to know JB five decades ago and willingly shares a few tidbits.
“JB and I became friends (and how we became friends is not suitable for publication) in 1964 or ’65, back in St. Louis, Missouri, where we both tried to grow up. Neither one of us had much luck in that area,” John recalls from his home in Sidney, Nebraska, where he just retired as a Cabela’s staff photographer: “We were 16 years old, both into cars, chasing girls boats and waterskiing and drinking Budweiser.”
“JB was an awesome skier on both water and snow. In our late teens, we spent countless days on the Meramec River near St. Louis, skiing with his fast 19-foot boat.”
“JB’s love for the water and all water sports came from our father, The Original Capt. Bob,” said sister Marilynn Besterfeldt Hajek. “He loved the water, too, and, so, he introduced us to The Lake of the Ozarks.”
As for those early fast — and wet — times, they came to an end when JB was drafted into the Army and served in Germany, while John went to Vietnam. It was the mountains of Europe that would attract JB to Colorado’s Rockies — first to Drake, near Estes Park.
“JB and I were very close friends for over 50 years,” adds John, who worked at Twisted Pine in 2001-02. “We could, and would, go for long periods of time without being in touch and be able to pick it right up.”
JB had partnered years before with Henry Glover in Estes Park in a retail store named Twisted Pine, which grew to other locations in Breckenridge, Keystone, Frisco and Vail. Later, JB became the sole owner.
Just last year, JB sold his Lincoln West Mall store to Overland Sheepskin Co. He had recently traveled back to St. Louis to visit his mother, June, who will be 97 on June 7.
“There was no better a natural-born salesman than JB,” remarks John. “With his smile and laugh, he could have you in the palm of his hand and feeling like you were best of friends in no time. I watched him close sales that were just amazing. More than a few deals were closed across the street at the bar in the St. Bernard or at the Briar Rose. Customers always left with a smile, knowing they had just made a new friend.”
That young life boating bug continued for JB, and it was many years of experience on Lake Powell that provided him the confidence to sell “Lap Dancer,” his 31-foot Formula, after finding the Baja’s bigger, warmer waters more to his liking.
At Powell, back in the late ’90s, JB is credited with saving the life of fellow Breckenridger and boater, Tony Atkinson, who was badly hurt in a murky-water, diving mishap to retrieve a lodged anchor, thought to be of little consequence.
When Tony did not surface, JB found him and began CPR while waiting for rescue personnel to arrive to a remote, watery canyon.
Tony’s alive today due to JB’s efforts.
A fellow veteran ski patroller at Breckenridge, Nick Payne, says of JB:
“This news finds us in France, heading to Italy. I am saddened to read about JB, a longtime friend. I knew about JB’s life-saving event of years ago, but I don’t have any further information. I do recall that ‘Jingles’ and I took JB out of the front bowl (Outlaw?) when he broke his leg in the mid-’70s. I was always impressed with his retail accomplishments. I will miss seeing him around town.”
John says this of his now-gone friend:
“JB was a special guy that had no trouble in making friends with a perfect stranger. He was the ideal addition to all of the other colorful characters in the high-mountain valley town of Breckenridge. We will have a memorial later this summer in Breck for JB to celebrate and honor his life and the tapestry of friendships that he has woven for us.
“Please ask people that have any pictures of JB to please send me a copy, so I can include it in the presentation of pictures I am putting together for the celebration of life.”
His contact info is: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll end this week’s column with a one-line JB-ism:
“Let’s peel off the pampers and party.”
Miles F. Porter IV — nicknamed “Spike!” — is a Coloradan since 1949, an Army veteran, former Climax miner, graduate of Adams State College and a local since 1982. Email your social info to email@example.com
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