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'Such a bright light': Sun Valley community remembers beloved kayaker

James "Jimmy" Grossman, 56, helped bring the 2009 Winter Special Olympics to Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho — The Sun Valley athletic and adventure community are mourning the loss of a beloved athlete and leader, James "Jimmy" Grossman. 

Idaho County Sheriff's Office said Grossman died in a kayaking accident in the Fall Creek area on the Salmon River on May 30. He was 56 years old. 

"He was such a bright light," Jimmy's ex-wife and close friend, Pirie Grossman said.

"The guy was so endlessly positive, you know? You would have to put on some sunscreen sometimes because he was just so stoked," Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Executive Director, Scotty McGrew said.

Being positive and a bright light are just some of the many things friends, family and community members around Sun Valley and Idaho said they will remember Grossman as.

"He's just such a competent, capable, fluent, inspired man, and you just meet very few people like that in your life," McGrew said.

McGrew said Grossman influenced a whole generation of athletes in Sun Valley. Grossman grew up with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, winning various accolades and competitions. Later in life, Grossman took the time to help coach and teach new athletes in the area, according to McGrew.

"These sports are tough and there are tougher days than there are easy days," McGrew said. "They're dangerous and they're scary. However, Jim was there for all of these kids, he would take the kid who had the roughest day and pull them aside and lift them back up."

It was his kind uplifting nature that Pirie said made others around him, including herself, stronger, confident people.

"I think that was probably the most favorite thing to do is to teach skiing or to teach kayaking," Pirie said.

Jimmy didn't just teach, he excelled in those sports even traveling and becoming the best in the world for surf kayaking.

Pirie said he passed that love for those sports onto his children, Buey and Saba.

"Their father will live in them forever," Pirie said.

However, one of the things Jimmy was best known for was his love for the Gem State and highlighting it.

"Jim Grossman was probably the single-most influential person who brought the 2009 World Winter Special Olympics Games to Idaho," Opey Penaloga, the chief operating officer for Special Olympics Idaho said. 

Jimmy and Pirie were co-chairs of the 2009 World Winter Special Olympics Games, helping raise $7 million in just two weeks, according to Penaloga.

"I think it's important for us to honor his passions and his commitment to Idaho, I think it really stands out the force of nature that he was," Penaloga said.

Pirie said he got involved in the Special Olympics because of his sister Courtney, who has intellectual disabilities. 

"His ability to have others believe they could do things was who he was," said Pirie. "It's who he was."

Pirie added they plan to have a celebration of life for Jimmy on August 7 at the River Run. She said anyone who knows or has ever met Jimmy is invited.

We will miss Jimmy with all of our hearts. He wore his passion for sport and adventure at the highest level on his...

Posted by Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation on Wednesday, June 1, 2022

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