Jim Hyatt’s extraordinary life was celebrated Saturday morning by family, friends and local dignitaries at the Norton Younglove Senior Center in Calimesa.
A public Celebration of Life was held for the longtime Calimesa councilman at the facility he helped build. Hyatt, who was 75, was a member of the Calimesa incorporation committee in the late 1980s and was elected to the first city council in 1990. He was serving his fourth straight four-year term when he passed away unexpectedly on April 27.
“Brenda, you were married to an extraordinary person,” said Jeff Hewitt, former Calimesa council member and mayor who is now the District 5 supervisor of Riverside County. “I had the pleasure and the pain, both, on being on that council with him. Jim was a very, very worthy adversary when he was on the other side, but he was an even more amazing ally when we worked together on things.”
Hyatt was known to be difficult and demanding. He was also known to be patient, enthusiastic, persuasive and frugal. The standing-room-only crowd of about 175 shared stories and reminisced about how they came to know Hyatt and how he had touched their lives, from riding horses together on local trails to playing bridge to gardening to collaborating on committees and agencies to a memorable trip to the WWII internment camp Manzanar.
“I just wanted to show here, and have you people all be part of this, because he was multi-faceted – the library, the garden club – all these things,” Brenda Hyatt said about her husband. “I¬¬f maybe you were on (Southern California Association of Governments) with him, you didn’t know this other part.”
Among those present were Calimesa Mayor Pro Tem Linda Molina and councilmen Ed Clark and Larry Smith and City Manager Bonnie Johnson, Yucaipa Mayor Bobby Duncan and City Manager Ray Casey, and Chuck Christie, president of the board for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District and Clerk Patty Ingram.
Former council members, who served with Hyatt, included Dennis Draeger, Joyce McIntire, now with the Yucaipa Valley Water District, and Ella Zanowic, as well as representatives from regional cities and agencies, whom he worked with.
Draeger, who worked with both Hyatts on Calimesa’s incorporation committee and was the city’s first mayor, shared how Hyatt approached him about being part of a committee to build a senior facility in 1985. Members faced many obstacles, primarily the absence of money.
“Jim, this is all great, but we don’t have any money,” Draeger said he told Hyatt after learning what they needed to do to build the facility. “He gave me a little half-smile.”
A few years later, the Norton Younglove Senior Center was completed. Whether is was the senior center and hiring staff, city incorporation and the hiring of a city manager and a city attorney, or more recently, the establishment of a city-run fire department, Hyatt did not let obstacles stop him from accomplishing what he set out to do.
“We were told because we didn’t have any money, we couldn’t have this center. We were told that we couldn’t be a city,” Brenda Hyatt said. “We were told by people, ‘You can’t do that.’ That was not in Jim’s vocabulary.”
Alice McDole knew Hyatt through their shared love of reading and support of the Calimesa Library.
“I don’t know what it was, but Jim sort of took me under his wing and he was always there for me,” she said, adding how he volunteered her to be a volunteer at the library. Many years later, McDole is still a member of the Friends to the Calimesa Library.
A fire in his belly is how Hewitt described Hyatt’s dedication and commitment to Calimesa and its residents.
“He cared, not only about this senior center here, but this entire community as much as any human could possibly do,” Hewitt said. “I will miss him dearly.”
Brenda Hyatt concluded the celebration by thanking everyone who attended.
“I am so grateful you are here to learn more about Jim and who he was,” she said.
A Jim Hyatt Memorial Fund for the Calimesa Library has been established. Those wishing to donate can submit funds to the city or call the city clerk’s office at 795-9801.