Jim “Plucker” Cleaver earned his nickname at Memorial Ball Park in Simcoe. It was Danny Husted, Jim’s baseball coach, who spoke of Jim’s ability to “pluck apples [baseballs] while patrolling centre field,” a nod to Cleaver’s apple orchard background.
Jim was also a renowned curler with Simcoe Curling Club. Those who curled with and against him spoke of his fierce competitive nature and his perpetual smile. Jim was a gentleman on and off the field, but once the game started it was all business.
Jim was a member of the Simcoe Curling Club for around 30 years, serving as a director and as vice-president of the organization during part of that time. He competed provincially and in Buffalo, New York as well as locally. Jim travelled extensively throughout Ontario with the Horace Greenfield rink, which won a many bonspiels and earned a reputation as one of the best rinks in Ontario.
Jim’s curling skills are legendary and it would take pages to list all of the trophies he and his teammates won in men’s and mixed events. The record is impressive but what is even more impressive is the impact Jim had on beginning curlers. He and others would teach young high school curlers both curling techniques and the rules of the game.
Jim was more than an athlete. He was a humanitarian who willingly gave of his time and money. As a baseball coach, he was “very dedicated and really respected by the players,” says fellow coach Dick Gibbons, who also notes the Jim also “anonymously made several sizeable donations to the South Coast Special Needs Sports.”
At the age of 12, while a member of the 5th Scout Troop, Jim received the Medal of Meritorious Conduct for his prompt action and quick thinking while rescuing a friend from drowning in the Grand River near Paris, Ontario.
Jim was a successful apple grower and innovator. He was, for many years, a member of the Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association. He was a leader in orchard innovation and was involved with Boards and Commissions at the provincial and national level. In 1989, Jim received the Golden Apple Award, given each year to apple industry participants who have made a difference in the industry.