Founder of Lake Rescue dies

Mooney graduated from Virginia Tech with his degree in forestry. “As part of obtaining his degree at Tech, he had to design a company he called Piedmont Thinning and Harvesting. The business model worked so well that he decided to actually start the business when he graduated,” said Martin. Mooney helped to found the American Logger’s Council and served as its president, and helped found the Virginia Loggers Association, and became its executive director. When a changing economy meant that his business became less profitable, Mooney changed careers and became a writer for Timber Harvesting Magazine and Southern Loggin’ Times.
“He also invented something called the ‘Trailer Checker,’” said Martin. “All the trailers that go on the road have to have working lights; if just one light is not working, the driver can be fined. Jim built this little control box with a plug on it so you could walk around with the box, plug it into the trailer, hit a few buttons, and check the lights without having to bring a tractor over to connect to it. He was a sharp guy,” said Martin, “very sharp.”
Mooney brought that intellect to bear in his work as a water rescuer. “I never saw a situation where he couldn’t think his way through and come up with a plan,” Martin said. “Jim was just exceptional. He was very good at it,” he added.
“Jim was a natural leader – he enjoyed being a leader,” said Martin. “The Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads hosts a ‘rescue college’ at Blacksburg every year. Jim went down there and took the class…and within a year, Jim was an instructor. He taught our group, of course, but he ended up as an instructor teaching other agencies all over the state.”
After working with the Lake Monticello Water Rescue Team for its first eight years, Mooney transferred to the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad’s water rescue team, where he was awarded a lifetime membership.
Together, with the help of others, the two men got the team up and running and Mooney was named the first captain of the Lake Monticello Water Rescue Team. “Jim really was the foundation for the water rescue team,” said Martin. “He’s the basis that everything else around here on water rescue is built on. He is where it all came from.”
“Then there was Jim’s wedding,” said Martin. “He had the reception over at the club house. The entire fire department was there, and of course we got a fire call. We made Jim and his father-in-law, who was also in the fire department, stay at the wedding reception. The rest of us showed up with fire suits over our tuxes…the lady opened the door and said ‘Well! Ya’ll are the best dressed fire department I’ve ever seen!’ When you were around Jim, things like that just happened,” Martin said with a smile.
“How many people can say they remember the time they first met their best friend?” Martin asked. “He was my friend for 27 years. He will be missed.”

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