His Life

Jim's youth

Jim was the only child of James Willsey Sr. and Roberta (Bobbie)Willsey nee: Gardiner. His parents married young, unfortunately shortly after Jim was born their marriage ended.Jim was raised by his Mom living in Johnson City, NY as a youngster.
From the stories I have heard from his Mom and from Jim himself he seemed to have a pretty typical childhood.

He played baseball, loved to play in the creek by CFJ park inspite of his Mother telling him to never play there, snuck over to play at CFJ park when he was supposed to be home awaiting his Mother's return from work. Catching snakes and putting them in a jar in the kitchen despite knowing his Mom was beyond terrified of them. All in all typical childhood adventures.

Jim's Nanny, Bobbie's Mom, always lived a short distance form them or even in the same apartment house. Nanny was a part of Jim's life always.

Jim's paternal garandparents lived on Gerard Ave in Binghamton, this was big Jim's (as Bobbbie refers to him) childhood home and throughout big Jim's life he would reside there from time to time with his mother and step father. Jim's Grandma Pat and Gramps.
Jim and Gramps had an extrordinarily close bond and love for each other.
Big Jim from what I have heard was bigger than life, someone to be reckoned with, known to carry a gun, lived life and lived it hard.
As those that are destined to die young seem to be driven to live as much life as possible in a brief amount of time without knowing why, big Jim felt this drive and lived life large and fast.
Big Jim died at the age of 36, stricken by lung cancer, Jim was 16 yrs old when his Dad died.

By the time Big Jim passed Jim was living with his beloved Gramps on Gerard Ave.
The very modest home on Gerard Ave was more than a house to Jim. Jim was extrordinarily attached to this house and ended up settling here and calling it home for his entire life. It is in this house that Jim took his last breath as did his Gramps so many years before him.

As a teenager

Jim developed a passion for basketball as a young teen. His commitment to being the best player he could be and his unwavering drive to achieve this goal was an early indication of the passion and intensity he would bring to many areas of his life.

Jim told me stories of blindfolding himself and dribbling the basketball, over and over and over. Not stopping until he had mastered this task and could not improve on it. The same with his shooting pushing, pushing himself. Shooting and practicing with an    
                                              intensity and fervor until he was satisfied.

Jim was a slight, skinny teenager. He excelled at basketball because he practied until he was the best. He used his mind, thinking outside the box when up against opponents. Trapped by a big guy while dribbling? He would throw the ball at the opponents foot causing the ball to go out of bounds, last touched by his opponent. He was on his way to mastering the ability to be calm and calculating under pressure. A trait that served him well through his life.

His days as a teenager were filled with marathon basketball games on the courts on Valley St. in the first ward. I heard many times from many people that Jim "owned" Valley St. Hours and hours of basketball played on those courts.

Being a skinny white kid, not very tall about 5'11'' made him look like an easy target. Big strong talented guys, black and white would try to take him and not succeed.
Jim's reputation on the court became almost legend. Many times I would meet someone for the first time and tell them who I lived with, "my partner/boyfriend is Jim Willsey". Often times I would hear, Jim Willsey? he was the best basketball player, I used to watch him at Valley St or St Cryril's. I wished I could play like him. Or they would say, He had an awesome jump shot, which later in life as he continued to play basketball led to his nickname "Jump".

After his passing he continued to be lauded,

October 01, 2011
"A good friend and tremendous athlete,
Jim willl be missed by many. My deepest sympathy goes out to his surviving loved ones. I can remember those days of endless marathon basketball games at Valley St Park. He was so dominating on the court with an unbelieveable "jump" shot that was just untouchable. He took great pride in all his accomplishments and he will be missed. Jim, until we can play a pick up game again, may God Bless you and your family. "  Mark Bohunicky

When Jim was a teenager CYO basketball was a big deal, some of the best players played CYO  instead of playing for their High schools. Too much "political" stuff with school ball is what I heard from many. Some outstanding players played for their schools and left in frustration and joined CYO.

Jim played for St. Cyril's, a team that would become legend in CYO basketball. Coached by Fran Heath, St. Cyril's would go on to become CYO champions 3 years straight. Led by Jim, Jim Connelly and Danny Dervay, St. Cryil's produced a 24 game winning streak spanning two seasons. 
Jim lead his team and often CYO in scoring. We are fortunate to have many of the newspaper articles written about this team and their glorious run. With pride I read these articles chronicaling not only St. Cyril's success but also Jim's personal success in becoming one of the best to have played. Accomplished thru determination, drive, dedication and hard work. 

Jim is remembered in the following memorial written by a good friend.
Pete Maravich was Jim's hero, when playing CYO ball Jim would where multiple pairs of socks just as Pistol Pete did. Jim strived to be like his hero and I believe succeeded in doing so..

October 02, 2011
To The Family and friends of Jim,
"I am so terribly saddened to learn of Jim,s passing.Whether it was watching him play or playing against him he was great to be around.His game reminded me of the great(Pete Maravich).A good friend that I have lost contact with and a hard worker that helped with contracting work on my home.Jim was a close family friend to my older siblings and the many lives he touched.Sleep well Wills.My condolences to all of you."    Tony Williams