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Born: Jun 27, 1948

Date of Passing: Sep 23, 2022

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James George Blanchard was born on June 27, 1948 in Minnedosa, Manitoba to Alvin Gourlay Blanchard and Mabel Lois Blanchard. He died in Winnipeg, Manitoba on September 23, 2022.
Jim was the third child of four, brother to Bev (Fran), Francie (d. 1945) and Lois (Roy). He was a thoughtful, droll boy, with a keen interest in history that was sparked in part by Grandpa William, a man whom Jim described as being of a different era, one of steam engines and dray horse teams delivering freight from the railyards.
Jim was of a different era too. As a child he built models of knights, which a curious Lois would sometimes break. He loved classical music, spent his Saturdays among books at the Brandon library and when he was 20, he attended seminary college for a year. He did his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history and although he was a librarian by trade, it was his work preserving Winnipeg's history that earned him local celebrity.
Although he was introverted, Jim had a captivating stage presence and loved music. He played a brilliant lead in a school production of Brigadoon, he studied piano and was adept at playing by ear. In the 1970s he performed Punch and Judy puppet shows at Assiniboine Park for children. When Jim became a dad, the puppet shows were reprised - over the back of the sofa to Pili as she played audience and director, and with a lovingly handcrafted puppet theatre for Jesse and Ben.
Jim loved Winnipeg. It was the city where he met Laurie, where they raised their kids as partners and then as lifelong friends, and where he forged a respected career as a librarian. He worked at the Winnipeg Public Library, the Canadian Grain Commission, as Director of Public Library Services for the province, and as Head of Reference Services at Elizabeth Dafoe Library at the University of Manitoba. After his 2014 retirement, he was named Librarian Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He wrote six books about the city's history, four of them winning the Margaret McWilliams Popular History Award, including Winnipeg 1912, which remains the most popular account of early 20th century Winnipeg.
In 2019, Jim received the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion. A maple tree, planted in his honour, grows in the front gardens of Dalnavert Museum.
Jim's extracurriculars were many. He was a mentor to young librarians, president of the Manitoba Historical Society, an ESL teacher to children and adults. He went to comedy festivals, watched James Bond films with Ben, attended MHS dinners and hosted talks and launches for his books. At events, he'd have friends in stitches making dry running commentary that was funny - or cutting - and always wise. He hosted gatherings at home (fretting over whether there'd be enough chairs) and spent time with his dear friend Mel. Jim was great company, but he cherished time alone in his study, handwriting meticulous notes in blue fountain pen, and working on his books.
Jim is survived by his children, Pili (Clif), Jesse and Ben (Sam), and his grandchildren, Mathias, Soren, Bram, Max and Mia.
Jim read an ee cummings poem at Pili's wedding, and although it's a love poem, the final stanzas instruct all those who love and will remember Jim.

"here is the deepest secret nobody knows / (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud / and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows / higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) / and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart / i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Vale Dad. We carry your heart.

A funeral will be held on Friday, October 21 at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 256 Smith St., Winnipeg. To attend by livestream, visit and click the button at the top of the page.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Rainbow Resource Centre.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Oct 08, 2022

Condolences & Memories (9 entries)

  • I was saddened to hear of Jim’s passing and remember him well as our Librarian at St. John’s College when I served as Dean of Studies. We were impressed by his professionalism and his dedication to assisting faculty and students with their research. No matter how obscure the topic, Jim approached the situation with patience and shared his expertise and time generously with people. That same demeanor extended beyond his professional position and I recall having the most engaging conversations about the history of Winnipeg buildings and neighborhoods. As others have noted, Jim had a wry sense of delivery and would manage to slip in unexpected humorous observations, almost under his breath, so that there was a lightness to his knowledge. I will remember Jim as a colleague and a friend and know that he will be missed by all who knew him. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and those close to him. Brenda Cantelo - Posted by: Brenda Cantelo (Colleague and friend) on: Oct 20, 2022

  • Through his books, Jim introduced me to the history of Winnipeg, when I first moved here. Working as a professor of archival studies at the University of Manitoba, I got to know Jim through his work in the libraries. Later, I got to know him much better through our common work of advocacy for an appropriate facility for the City of Winnipeg Archives. Jim's passion for the history of our city made him a natural advocate for the City Archives, while his numerous books gave him an authority that few could match. But what I will miss most of all is Jim's wry humour and piercing analysis when we would debrief after meeting with city councillors and committees. I offer my condolences to Jim's family and friends. - Posted by: Greg Bak (Friend and colleague) on: Oct 15, 2022

  • I met Jim in the mid 1980s when I was an archivist at the then National Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada). He was a researcher. Little did I know that our paths would cross again and more often years later at the University of Manitoba, where Jim was a librarian and I taught Archival Studies in the History department, and again as members of the Association for Manitoba Archives-based group that has been lobbying the City of Winnipeg for several years about the need for a proper facility for the City Archives. As Winnipeg's blend of Pierre Berton and Charlotte Gray, Jim wrote a number of popular books on the city's history. How fitting that McNally Robinson bookstore at Grant Park now has a display about them in his memory. Jim was thus perfectly placed for the stellar advocacy he provided for the City Archives cause. Jim's wry wit and genial manner will also be greatly missed. I offer my condolences to his family and friends. - Posted by: Tom Nesmith (Colleague and Friend) on: Oct 12, 2022

  • Jim has been a great friend and colleague to me, beginning way back in PLS days. Jim was instrumental in my move out of libraries and into archives - a move that led me into a very much loved career! Over the years, over lunches and coffees, we traded jokes, anecdotes, and inside info on great archival records to inform his work. I hold dear our last lunch together in May; will always treasure his friendship! He was one-of-a-kind. I am sad to say that I cannot attend his memorial service. I will be there in spirit. Condolences to family and friends. We will all miss him dearly. - Posted by: Jody Baltessen (Friend and Colleague) on: Oct 11, 2022

  • Condolences to all Jim's family especially to brother Bev and his family who enjoyed each other's company sharing lots of good times. It is so hard to lose a sibling, part of you gone. - Posted by: connie krawec (friend of Jim's brother) on: Oct 11, 2022

  • As head of the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, I had a chance to work with Jim in selecting appropriate rare materials to support the study of Winnipeg history. Jim was always interested and thoughtful about the selections. We had a further chance to work together after he retired when he came on to the Association of Manitoba Archives committee to find a new home for the City of Winnipeg Archives. He was fired up about getting the Archives to safety, and he used his many contacts and knowledge of the city to help the committee make contact with many of the City councillors. He always provided good feedback and made informed commentary. He knew the value of the city’s archives having used them for many of his books on the City’s history. That authenticity made him a persuasive speaker. But he was always willing to laugh at himself and the situation, no matter how fired up he became. He will definitely be missed and I am sorry that he will not see the archives in a safe and secure home after all his efforts. - Posted by: Shelley Sweeney (Friend and colleague) on: Oct 11, 2022

  • So sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. We worked together at the UM Libraries and I always appreciated his calm demeanour, humble intelligence, and wit. - Posted by: Ginny Aho (Colleague ) on: Oct 10, 2022

  • Jim's books have been an impressive example of research melding with great storytelling. So sorry that I never got to speak to him about them. Heartfelt sympathy to his family. - Posted by: Bruce Thomson (casual friend) on: Oct 10, 2022

  • Always enjoyed chatting with Jim, enjoyed his sense of humour and interviewing him about his books for CBC and CKUW FM. Ron Robinson - Posted by: Ron Robinson (Friend) on: Oct 08, 2022

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