Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ketchum philanthropist Jim Cimino dies at 92

Ketchum resident supported students throughout county

Express Staff Writer

Philanthropist Jim Cimino, center, celebrates during a brunch in 2011 for winners of the Student of Hispanic Origin and Barbara Cimino Memorial scholarships. Photo by Willy Cook

Ketchum resident and noted philanthropist Jim Cimino died Monday, July 30, at age 92, leaving a legacy of generosity in the Wood River Valley, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

James N. Cimino was born Jan. 24, 1920, in Savanna, Ill. In the late 1950s he joined, and later purchased, 150-year-old Plaza Provision Co. in Puerto Rico, transforming it into a leading food and beverage distribution company in the Caribbean, according to the company's website.

Plaza Provision provides funding for health care and education programs in Puerto Rico, as well as food and other supplies for the needy and homeless. Cimino retired many years ago and began spending more time in the Wood River Valley with his wife, Barbara, who died in 2002.

On Thanksgiving Day 1945, Army Sgt. Cimino walked into a canteen in Antwerp, Belgium, on his way to Paris. Barbara was there, working as a volunteer Red Cross nurse, according to an interview that she gave to local writer Chris Millspaugh. The couple attended a dance and fell in love and dated for a year after the war. They were married in 1946 in Omaha, Neb., on Thanksgiving Day. They had five children.


Because Barbara Cimino's father had worked for Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska, and her mother had taught skating in Sun Valley, the couple traveled to Sun Valley for their honeymoon. In 1975, the Ciminos bought a house on Warm Springs Road that had been owned by Dr. John Moritz.

The James and Barbara Cimino Foundation was formed about 10 years ago, supporting various local causes, including scholarships at Wood River High School, charity groups, sports teams and the 4-H clubs at the Blaine County Fair in Carey each summer.

Jim Cimino endowed a business school scholarship at De Paul University, which he attended as a young man.

Cimino's most endearing legacy in the Wood River Valley is Memory Park at the corner of Sixth and Main streets in Ketchum. The landscaped public space, dedicated to the memory of his beloved wife, provides a water fountain for kids in summer and an opportunity for relaxation year round. The park is marked by many bricks naming loved ones who are missed.

When asked by the Mountain Express two years ago to provide information about his past, and to discuss his many contributions to the valley, Cimino said simply to visit Memory Park.

"Everything I have to say is there," he said.

Tony Evans:

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