Jim Wilcox Sr. moved to Juneau 56 years ago as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. In the years since, he got married, worked for the Alaska Marine Highway System, started several businesses, raised a family, retired twice and continued to serve the community through volunteer work.
Wilcox was named the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year at the chamber’s annual dinner Friday night. Wilcox’s friend Mal Menzies gave a speech leading up to giving the award meant to be a surprise for Wilcox.
“The minute he started talking I figured out who he was talking about,” Wilcox said.
He said he first had a sneaking suspicion he might be the recipient when he got a call from his daughter saying she was coming up from Texas. Another clue came when he was setting up Centennial Hall for the dinner.
“I’ve set that hall many, many times, and when our table ended up right in front of the grand stand, I thought, ‘Aha, there’s something going on,” he said.
Menzies said in his speech Wilcox was chosen for the award for his longtime activism in the business community and involvement with the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
Wilcox said he’s been helping out the chamber for “years and years and years,” although, when he was first in business, he didn’t have the time.
“Back years ago, I wasn’t involved in the chamber,” he said. “We didn’t get involved for a few years because we were just too busy making a living. But the last 10 years, probably, even more than that, I’ve been quite active with the chamber.”
He credits his activism to chamber CEO Cathie Roemmich, who gives her job everything she has, he said.
“That encourages other people to jump in and help,” Wilcox said.
By the time he retired, Wilcox owned three mobile home parks, an apartment building, a pumping service and a laundromat. He had also started a corporation with seven others called Glacier Lands, which bought and sold commercial property.
“Now, mostly all I do is volunteer,” he said.
Besides his work with the chamber, Wilcox is involved with the Juneau Community Foundation, the Roads Committee, the Southeast Alaska Food Bank board of directors and the Shrine of St. Therese advisory board.
Wilcox now has a private antique museum in his home and is known affectionately by some as “the Bedpan Man” for his collection of antique bedpans, referenced at the chamber dinner.
He said he was honored to be among the list of people who have won Citizen of the Year over the years.
“I’m in with some pretty good company, good people,” Wilcox said.