ldon Jamison was a credit to these mountains. That’s the highest compliment a mountain man can receive. By the accounts of all who knew him, it’s an entirely appropriate one as well.
The 71-year-old Yellow Mountain man died last week doing what he’d dedicated his life to: Helping others.
Jamison was among responders attempting to locate 24-year-old Chandler Manuel of Rockwell, who had fallen into the base of Whitewater Falls on May 4. Manuel was with a group of hikers who had been hiking the Foothills Trail.
The Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad and other responders launched a search for Manuel that was temporarily suspended by storms in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Returning to the scene later that morning, a host of departments stepped up the search.
During that phase of the search Jamison was rappelling in the falls area when he fell from a rope. Ten other Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad members were below where he fell, and eight others were on their way down. They all survived unscathed.
Jamison did not.
Losing a man with such experience, a man who’d always been there to lend a hand and seemingly always would be, hit the tight-knit first responder community hard.
“He was young at heart,” said Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad EMS Director Jeremy Stewart. He said his squad was handling the loss “as good as could be expected, but we’ve got to move forward and carry on. That’s what he would have wanted.”
The responders indeed did move forward despite the loss of Jamison, recovering Manuel’s body on Wednesday at the bottom of the falls.
With 40-plus years of experience, Jamison was undoubtedly all-too familiar with Whitewater Falls, hands-down the most dangerous set of falls in these mountains. Since 1993 more than a dozen people have perished at the falls, which have been the scene of countless rescues of survivors as well.
Stewart said Jamison had been on hand for “fires, car crashes, missing person searches … he worked EMS for more than 30 years, and when he retired from that he’s always been a volunteer, helping handle anything from a cut finger to what we were doing last week.
“It takes a special person. It’s a dangerous job, not everybody can do that. You have to have a compassion toward your fellow man and be willing to go.”
Jamison was a deeply religious man, Stewart said, devoted to his family and to Yellow Mountain Baptist Church.
And he has left an enviable legacy.
“He was a very loving and compassionate man, he loved what he was doing,” Stewart said. “I just can’t explain it in words. He meant the world to us. He was a very good mentor for young people, and I was one of them. We worked with him and learned from him, and hopefully we can pass that along.”