By JACKIE GOLD
DELMAR — James Sheldon, known to many from his business “Jim’s Tastee Freez,” died peacefully on Jan. 8.
The owner of the hometown ice cream shop is remembered for his kind heart, generous soul and great friendship.
Sheldon served in the U.S. Army in South Korea and upon his return, took ownership of Tastee Freez. He gave many young teenagers their first jobs and gave opportunities to people who needed it most.
Bruce Fourman, an employee and friend of Sheldon’s in the 1980s, recalled how Sheldon was there for him after his father passed. “I was lost, and Jim stepped in to help,” Fourman said.
Fourman also looked back on Sheldon’s service at Jim’s Tastee Freez. “He was so great with the customers and had the most infectious smile,” Fourman said. “We would forget the line was out to Delaware Avenue because Jim was there brightening the mood.”
Fourman also expressed his gratitude for Sheldon’s generosity throughout the years. “He was the best boss I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
Chris Sherin, another former employee, shared a similar sentiment. Sherin said that as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., he still uses skills Sheldon taught him at Jim’s Tastee Freez: honesty, work ethic and communication.
Jaime Walsh, an employee of Sheldon’s for over eight years, said Sheldon took a chance on her when she was going through a rough patch. “He really gave me a chance when not a lot of others would,” Walsh said.
Walsh spoke of Sheldon’s advice, humor, and generosity. After she finished her studies, he told her, “I knew you could do it, I’m so proud of you.”
Sheldon’s impact goes far beyond the walls of Jim’s Tastee Freez, though. As a regular at My Place And Co., he met April Audietis, a waitress who worked there at the time. She was in an abusive relationship that frequently caused her to miss shifts or come to work with bruises on her face. Upon realizing Audietis’ situation, Sheldon gave her $200 and offered his home in case she needed a safe place to go.
“That $200 was the push I needed to leave that relationship,” Audietis said. She used the money to fill up gas in her truck and leave the abusive relationship, eventually leading to a new job. “It made me feel like someone was believing in me, that I wasn’t just stuck.”
Years later, when Audietis tried to pay Sheldon back, she recalled him refusing and saying to her, “No, it was a gift. Just remember to always help someone if you can.”
“There are not a lot of people who are just good and kind in this world, but Jim was one of them,” Audietis said. Upon recalling the story, she began to tear up and said at the lowest point in her life, Sheldon’s support came at the exact right time.
Kathryn Bredderman, one of Sheldon’s tenants at an apartment he owned, also spoke of his great timing. “I had no car and was attending SUNY. Jim would see me walking to the bus in the cold and give me a much needed ride to school on more than one occasion,” she wrote on Facebook. Bredderman also wrote about his generosity and advice on those car rides.
To many, the opening of Jim’s Tastee Freez in the spring is a sure sign that the long upstate winter is coming to an end. Sheldon’s legacy will continue to live on through all he helped to bring fun, sweet and happy memories.
James Sheldon, 62, passed away peacefully In Tampa, Florida on January 8, 2021 with his children and fiancee at his side.
Born in Albany, NY and raised in St. James Parish, Jim graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in 1977 and joined the U.S. Army proudly serving his country both in South Korea and at Fort Bragg, NC. Honorably discharged in 1982 from the 269th Aviation Battalion, Jim was awarded several honors during his time in service.
Following his time of service, Jim returned to his hometown and took ownership of Bill’s Tastee Freez, where he had worked during his teen years.
Jim and his former wife Kim Sheldon spent decades continuing to grow the business as a cornerstone of the community. Jim gave countless young men and women their first job, first lessons in responsibility and memorable experiences to the community.
A respected pillar of the community, Jim supported many local causes, both large and small. Anyone who encountered him, knew Jim was the ultimate “people-person”, whether at the store or his local watering hole, always loving and generous to those around him and he will be missed by so many.
Jim had a life filled with friendship and gave himself fully to each person he connected with, whether for a moment or a lifetime.
Jim worked tirelessly until his lung transplant on Thanksgiving 2017, when he retired and passed the business on to his son Gregory.
Jim lived his retirement in style with his beloved fiancée Dori Thompson, in Clearwater Florida. Dori and Jim lived life to the fullest every moment they were given from cruising and jet skiing to sailing through sunsets or simply enjoying the beach together.
Jim’s greatest joy was being a father and grandfather. Jim was a loving father to his daughter, Heather, his son Gregory and daughter-in-law Jodi, and a doting grandfather to Scarlett, Kahlo and Sagan Grace. He deeply valued his time with his grandchildren and every moment was cherished.
Jim is survived by his mother, Marcia Hogan (Joseph), his brother Michael Sheldon (Diane), sisters Bonnie Gold (Steve), Karen Bechdol (John) and Linda Stumbaugh (Brian) as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and Kim Sheldon, his first wife and mother of his children. Jim was predeceased by his father, Albany P.D. Sgt. Anthony Sheldon.
In Honor of Jim’s humble generosity, the family wishes to give all those who were touched by his life to share their tributes to his memory as they are so moved, following his example of “paying it forward”.
For any looking for inspiration, in honor of the fallen veterans who served this nation, most notably his cherished friend and fellow UH-1 Crew Chief, PFC Michael Brown, any memorial tributes can be made to a charity such as the Air Warrior Courage Foundation or CFSRF (Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund). We can also share our gratitude for The United Network for Organ Sharing in their dedication to helping transplant patients.
Jim will be interred at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. A service of remembrance will be held at a future time due to the current global pandemic, when we will gather together and celebrate this great man, and his life.