By Geraldine Warner
Wenatchee philanthropist and tree fruit leader Jim Wade will receive a special birthday honor this year. The Confluence Health Foundation will present him with the Spirit of A.Z. Wells Award for Community Service during its 25th annual Gala on November 11, the day after his 90th birthday.
Jim, who has always been more comfortable giving than receiving, is characteristically modest about the recognition.
“I feel that it’s nice that people think I deserve it, but what have I done that’s different from anyone else?” he asks. “I haven’t done anything special. I’ve just done what I thought was right.”
Many local organizations, families, and individuals have benefited over the years from Jim doing what he felt was right. For example, it’s thanks to Jim and his family that each baby born in Wenatchee receives a book to take home from the hospital. It’s also because of Jim’s generosity that Wenatchee boasts the finest children’s library in north central Washington.
Jim’s father Isham Fielding Wade (known as Ike) grew up in Tennessee, one of nine children. Ike’s older brother James Mark “J.M.” moved to Wenatchee in 1913 and went into partnership with A.Z. Wells, who ran a hardware store and had a large orchard north of Chelan. Wells managed the hardware side of the business and Wade ran the fruit packing and sales operation.
In 1919, after serving with the U.S. Army in World War I, Ike Wade joined his brother in Washington State. He attended the University of Washington, where he met his future wife Doris, and then worked for Wells and Wade. Ike and Doris’s daughter Peggy was born in 1925 and Jim was born in 1926.
When A.Z. Wells and J.M. Wade ended their partnership in 1937, J.M. formed J.M. Wade Fruit Company. Wells continued to operate his business under the name Wells and Wade, Inc., although the Wade family has not been involved since that date.
Columbia Fruit Packers
Ike worked for J.M. Fruit Company until 1946, when he and other employees established their own business called Columbia Fruit Packers in a rented warehouse.
Jim began his marketing career at the age of 10 when he sold candy to packing house workers during the busy cherry season. Later, he worked in the Columbia Fruit packing house during school vacations.
In 1944, during his senior year of high school, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He spent a year at Washington State College in Pullman waiting to be called up and competed on the college ski team. He was inducted into the Air Force in 1945 and did basic training at Wichita Falls, Texas, with the goal of being an aviation cadet. However, because the war was ending, he was sent to photography school in Denver and discharged shortly afterwards.
He attended the University of Washington and completed his education at Wenatchee Valley College, where he was on the ski-racing team. In 1949, Jim married Camille Jones, a former school classmate and also an avid skier. Her parents, Irwin and Elma Jones, owned the Jones and Jones Funeral Home in Wenatchee.
After college, Jim worked for a year for the Washington State Department of Agriculture as a fruit inspector. He then sold spray materials for Niagara Chemical Company in Wenatchee for a year before his father invited him to join Columbia Fruit Packers as sales manager.
Columbia Fruit Packers had become one of the leading cherry packers in Wenatchee, packing about a third of the Wenatchee area crop, but was still renting warehouse space. The company also shipped apples, but most of the apples the company sold were packed by other companies.
In 1964, Jim acquired property at North Miller Street, where Columbia Fruit Packers established its own packing facility. The company later expanded to Olds Station and consolidated its operations there. In the 1970s and 1980s, the company expanded its orchard holdings in central Washington.
In 1989, Jim founded Columbia Marketing International with Glady Bellamy and Nick Buak, who were formerly with Beebe Orchard Company, and invited McDougall and Sons to be a partner. The new company quickly became one of the leading tree-fruit marketers in the state.
Jim and Camille raised three children, Mark Wade, Mike Wade, and Susan Heinicke. Mike is general manager of Columbia Fruit Packers, but Jim is still president and goes to the office several days a week.
While building the business, Jim also served on the boards of numerous fruit industry organizations including: Washington State Fruit Commission, Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation, Washington Cherry Marketing Commission, International Apple Institute (now U.S. Apple Association), Northwest Horticultural Council, Washington Apple Commission, and Washington Apple Education Foundation. He was named the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival Citizen of the Year in 1995 and was Grand Marshal of the festival in 2007.
Ken Severn, retired president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, said Jim had a marvelous talent of recognizing what the organization needed to accomplish for the good of the industry and uniting the board members to make it happen.
Jim has also been quietly but effectively working in the community. He was a founding director and stockholder in Wenatchee Mountain, Inc., which developed the Mission Ridge ski area in 1966. He was named director emeritus in 1990 after 27 years on the board. He worked with the youth ski racing programs for more than three decades.
He has been a Rotarian for more than 60 years and served on the boards of AAA in Seattle, the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, and Wenatchee Savings and Loan. He has contributed to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and been a long-time supporter of the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and the Boy Scouts. He helped raise the money for the scouts to buy the Scout-A-Vista camp near Mission Ridge four years ago. Columbia Fruit continues to sponsor a concert at the Performing Arts Center each year.
When Jim’s mother Doris underwent dialysis treatment at Central Washington Hospital for two years before she died in 1992, she became very close to the nurses in the dialysis unit and learned that they had to pay for their own training in Seattle. The family set up the Wade Dialysis Fund to pay their expenses.
Jim’s wife Camille was a voracious reader who felt strongly about the value of children having access to books. After the hospital stopped offering dialysis treatment and the fund was no longer needed, the family renamed it the Wade Family Literacy Fund. Thanks to Jim and his family, each newborn baby receives its first book and every child who is a patient receives an age appropriate book of their very own to take home from the hospital. Proceeds from this year’s annual gala will go towards that fund.
Camille was a member of the Zetetic Book Club. After she passed away in 2011, Valerie Valaas, a fellow book club member, told Jim there was space in the basement of the Wenatchee library that could be converted into a children’s library. Jim went to talk to Dan Howard, director of the North Central Regional Library, and decided to fund the project in memory of Camille. Howard said the library was considering refurbishing the building and particularly the children’s area when Jim approached him. “We’d thought we might begin a long-term fund-development process,” Howard recalled. But a $300,000 donation from Jim covered most of the cost, allowing the project to go ahead much sooner than expected.
“We thought we’d be raising money for many years,” Howard said. “It was very lucky for us and the community, as his funds allowed us to build a modern, beautiful, and inspirational children’s area. We would not have been able to do it without Mr. Wade’s incredible generosity.” The 4,000-square-foot area is designed to evoke the mountains and apple orchards of the Wenatchee region. Howard said it is a symbol of the community’s commitment to children, education, reading, and books. “And we owe that to Mr. Wade.”