James Winder Laird of Fort Lauderdale, died April 3. He was 74.
Jim attended the United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale regularly. Jim’s passion was music. He knew how music impacts us. It comforts us when we are sad, gives us strength when we feel weak, lifts up joy in times of celebration, and is vital in worship, feeling and experiencing the divine.
Jim assisted our church often with funding and providing special music ranging from solo artists to last year’s 36-piece orchestra from the Symphony of the Americas which accompanied our 30-person choir for the Christmas Cantata. I have a colleague who is on staff at Old Church South (a UCC church founded in 1873) in Boston and he told me that in his lifetime there they had never had a musical performance as impactful as this was here. I believe Jim’s passion and love of music were so important to him because it was a way to share something so special and meaningful to him with others.
Jim was a supporter of Island City Stage since its inception.
“He was passionate about the arts and always generous with the theater, recently sponsoring the hit, Altar Boyz. Although he was very private about his giving, he was excited to see the results. Jim was always thinking of ways to make Island City Stage accessible to everyone. He was appreciated, and he will truly be missed at the theater and by me.” – Martin Childers, the Managing Director shares.
Jim had seen “Altar Boyz” on the stage in Chicago years ago and was excited about bringing it to the area. The show was so successful here, it was extended a few extra weeks! We attended the closing performance together as he wanted to share that with me. I thoroughly enjoyed it as it was so professionally done and the spiritual message through music was uplifting and one of empowerment and the importance of community.
Jim also had a special love for the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida.
“Jim was someone who absolutely loved the arts, especially music. His eyes would sparkle when he spoke about great compositions or performances he loved. He was very generous in his support of many South Florida cultural organizations, making the arts possible for our community. His passing is really sad for all of us. – Mark Kent, Executive Director.
I am reminded of a quote from Plato – “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”
Jim was a passionate person his entire life! Before moving to Fort Lauderdale from Wilmington, Delaware, Jim was very involved with coaching. Not the kind of coaching you may think. Stage Coaching with four horses!
For some years he hosted coaching evenings, taking guests cross-country on his carriages and returning them for dinner to his own restaurant. He was a regular participant in the coaching classes at the Devon Horse Show and at other equine events and was a member of the Vicmead Coaching Club and one of its presidents.
After graduating from the University of Delaware he took a year at the Restaurant School in Philadelphia. He then moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, and put his coach-and-four on a scheduled run from West Chester to the Marshalton Inn.
His niece Margaret shared with me:
“I think it was one of the most happy times in his life. When I was about 12, he invited me to ride on the driver’s seat with him for the Devon cross country coach event — he was driving his high perch Phaethon, with four unruly horses in hand. We set off at dawn and drove through the Pennsylvania countryside, down roads and across fields, finally arriving at the main ring for our spin and judging. It was a little terrifying at times, but so memorable.”
Jim also pursued his love of travel, a passion developed during his childhood. He was a memorable host, and his parties and holiday dinners brought joy to his family and friends.
Jim Laird moved to the area because this was a city in which he could live freely and as himself. He loved this community deeply and will be missed. One of my favorite things about Jim was that will all his resources, he would prefer to meet at the Egg & You diner to share a meal.
That’s a very special man! Thank you, Jim, for sharing your passion for life with us!
Jim is predeceased by his parents, William Winder Laird and Winnifred Moreton Laird of Wilmington, Delaware, and siblings Mary Laird Silvia of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and George W. Laird of Wilmington, Delaware.
He is survived by his three nieces, Margaret Lindale Laird, Alletta Laird Tate, and Irene Laird Jennings and their families; his sister's husband, Peter Alfred Silvia; and his brother's wife, Ann Laird Wick. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to SunServe, 2312 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, Florida, 33305.