The craft distilling world has lost a giant this week. Jim Harrelson passed away Sunday after suffering a heart attack nearly a week ago. Jim was the Head distiller and “Lead Janitor” as he liked to call himself at Do Good Distilling in Modesto California. Do Good is a collaboration by friends and colleagues who banded together after the death of Paul Katuszonek, Jim’s brother in-law, an Oakdale police officer killed in a car crash on his way to work.
The announcement of Jim’s passing was posted to Facebook in the early morning hours of Monday by his wife Liz. “Despite earlier improvements, my sweet, strong, husband, Jim, passed away yesterday after his heart attack on Monday. He was the very best that person I’ve ever met. We welcome continued prayers and positive energy as we all work to navigate the world without his laughter, guidance, and support.”
The community went to work as soon as they heard with thoughts and prayers for Jim’s speedy recovery and social media lead the charge with #prayingforJim wanting Jim to wake up. The massive heart attack as it has been described sent him into coma that family and friends hoped he would awake from. Sadly, #hopingforamiracle was unanswered along with why this would happen to such a good man. On August 4th, it looked like he would wake up and that hope was strong with the family until the end.
On Jim’s Facebook page, he claims that “I do things that sometimes can be confused with work” and that seems to be how people will remember him, with an unwavering sense of humor.
He was a visionary and understood the needs of the industry. According to the Do Good website Jim consumed knowledge of distilling and brewing and even attended classes when he could. His love for knowledge and fervor for the craft industry lead him to become president of the California Artisanal Distiller’s Guild. The page also tell us that he was an avid runner, loved gardening and going to concerts.
I last saw Jim a year ago, while collecting bottles for an event at a conference I was putting together. We spoke about the state of the craft industry, the changing landscape of spirits in America and he had plenty of advice. He was always willing to share information and from what I gleamed he was the type to make friends everywhere.
Jim was a respected member of the community in California and was a former Deputy Sherriff of Stanislaus county. He is survived by his wife and three daughters who filled his life with laughter and love. Their loss will be felt by the community, family and an entire industry.
I will be raising a glass of Night Hawk in his honor this evening and hope many will do the same.
Jim, your lust for life and whiskey will be remembered.
May peace find you.
Jim helped teach a whiskey distilling class that I attended with my son several months ago. With law enforcement in my family, I immediately recognized the calm strength of character that radiated from him. That sense was repeated when I heard him as the keynote speaker at the ADI conference later that same year. His work helping to get the California Craft Distillers Act of 2015 is greatly appreciated by everyone working in the California craft distilling industry. His passing is a tragedy in many ways. He will be missed, but remembered. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends suffering with their loss.
Deepest Condolences from the BOWER HILL Boys here on the east coast. Although we never met Jim what he was doing is in our hearts as well; a common thread for the love of whiskey. GODSPEED….
He is missed! A rock of a man and one of the best! Learned many things from him. Rest easy Jim.