James Leonard Giacomini
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Dan Sharphorn on June 1, 2019:
When remembering Jim Giacomini, one might think that "smart" would be the first thing that would come to mind. He was smart, but brilliant would be a better descriptor on any list of the characteristics that made Jim the person he was. But for those of us who knew him and loved him, many traits come first: loving, affectionate, loyal, reliable, honorable, fun.
Family and friends always knew he was there for them and could always be counted on. Classmates came to rely on him for help with homework or with the smallest thing, whether it be moving from one room to another or making sure you got home after a weekend in NYC. He was someone to talk to when you were struggling with Cadet life far from home. He would listen, and care, and do his best to help you through. You never had any doubt about calling on him, he was the person you knew you could go to and who you knew would always be there.
Jim was born and raised in the small village of Ravena, New York, the oldest of four children. His Dad worked for the railroad and his Mom ran a daycare center in their home. It soon became clear that Jim was special. From the beginning he was at the academic top of all of his classes. He was the Valedictorian of his high school class and a New York Regents Scholar. He could have attended any college in the country; he chose West Point because he wanted to serve his country.
From the very first day, he impressed and endeared his classmates. Not knowing they would later become company mates, roommates, and lifelong friends, one classmate recalls meeting Jim the night before the first day of Beast Barracks. They were sitting on the wall outside the Thayer Hotel where the new Cadets were housed before their lives would forever be changed by becoming part of West Point, talking about where they were from, what was going to happen the next day, what they feared. Jim was fun and confident, and made one scared 18 year old from the Midwest comfortable that there were going to be people here he would like and trust.
Jim quickly conquered cadet life including academics. An excellent marksman, he was on the pistol team all four years. He also loved the outdoors and hunting. His class rank made every Army post in the country available to him for Army Orientation Training during our cow summer but he chose to go to Alaska so he could also hunt in the great wilderness there. And, yes, he did bag his bear, and proudly brought the trophy back for West Point's version of "show and tell!" While mastering academics, with an ease that greatly annoyed at least one of his former roommates and dear friends, Jim would not shy away from a good time or a Cadet prank.
Jim's eagerness to party took a significant turn after he found his true love Sharon. The good news was that we did not lose Jim, we gained Sharon. As a couple they were always there, helping and supporting the other dates and brides to be, and trying to keep the single classmates out of trouble. The perpetual star man, Jim graduated 6th in the class and chose the Signal Corps. He and Sharon we married during graduation leave and after the basic course they headed off to Wurzburg, Germany, where Tracy, the first of their three beautiful daughters was born. Lori and Carrie followed rounding out the family Jim so loved.
After the advance course and a short tour in Thailand Jim earned a masters degrees in both electrical engineering and business management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute near both their home towns in upstate New York. Jim described his subsequent assignment to the Physics Department at West Point as his "most enjoyable two years in the Army." Their daughters gained a lasting bond with West Point.
In 1977, Jim decided to test his skills in the corporate world. He rose rapidly, first with Ford Motor Credit in Novi, Michigan, then with Jartran in Miami, Florida and finally General Electric Auto Leasing (GECAL) in Barrington, Illinois. Jim was the president and general manager of GECAL, a $4 billion subsidiary of GE Capital Corporation, for several years before his death. He died suddenly of a heart attack at home on the evening of November 6, 1990, shortly after pursuing his favorite pastime, hunting in Wyoming.
Jim was an extraordinary son, husband, father, brother, classmate and friend. We lost this exceptional talented man much, much too soon. None of us who knew Jim will forget him. He was very special, touched us all deeply, and will live on in our hearts and memories forever.