On Wednesday, July 13, Pat John passed away at a relatives house in his hometown of Sechelt, British Columbia. John was a member of the shíshálh Nation and gained worldwide fame for his role as Jesse Jim on the long-running television series The Beachcombers.
Four actors who started their careers on The Beachcombers reunited on September 16 for the show’s 50th anniversary of filming in Gibsons. Pictured left to right are Bob Park (Hughie Carmody), Nancy Chapple (who played Margaret Carmody originally), Jackson Davies (Constable John Constable) and Pat John (who played Jesse Jim).
The original Margaret Carmody (played by Nancy Chapple), Hughie Carmody (played by Bob Park), Constable John (played by Jackson Davies), and Jesse Jim (played by Pat John) reunited on September 16 to mark the 50th anniversary of The Beachcombers filming in Gibsons, BC. The shíshálh Nation star, who was best known for his role as Jesse Jim on the popular TV series, passed away on July 13 at a relative’s house in Sechelt, where he was born. John died at the age of 69, having been in poor health for a number of years. Only three months before the 50th anniversary of the show that made him famous, the iconic series first aired back in October 1972. The show’s pilot episode was named Jesse’s Car, showing that John had a huge influence on the history of the 19-season television program on CBC Television.
John was contacted by one of his old teachers about auditioning for a part in a new TV series back in 1971. He was asked to play the role of an 16-year-old Indigenous male in the drama. After doing a camera test and giving a long speech, John went back to his job at the sawmill. Six months later, he was hired for a period of 10 weeks at a salary of 600 dollars per week. This was when Beachcombers set the record for being the longest Canadian TV drama series, but Degrassi managed to beat its record only 10 years later by producing 387 episodes.
John remembered thinking, What did I get myself into? And then 19 years passed, he said in an interview with Coast Reporter last year. He was talking about his character as the steadfast business partner of log salvager Nick Adonidas, played by Bruno Gerussi. John’s character led the way for many Indigenous television actors, taking on iconoclastic roles.
Chief Dan George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and who was awarded an Academy Award nomination in 1970 for his role as a typical tribal leader in Little Big Man, starred in Beachcombers as a modern chief dealing with complicated issues like industry impacts on the environment and territorial rights. John, played by Jackson Davies, and his sister Sara played by Charlene Aleck, are shown as being younger siblings in the series.
Aleck is a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and was one of the many young actors who used Beachcombers to kick-start their acting and artistic careers. According to Davies, who spoke with Coast Reporter, social media did not exist when the series first aired. Pat never knew how many kids all around the world admired him, not just Indigenous kids. We did not have much media when I was young, and Pat probably didnt think about how he was influencing a generation of kids. Some people, who were not Native, probably thought that the man was nice guy because it was the first time they had seen a Native person living in their community. He was not one of the negative guys on the outside of the community.