Columbus, OH --- James E. “Jim” Ewart, 72, one of the sport’s best-known racing secretaries, died Feb. 14, 2012, in Grove City, Ohio, following a long struggle with cancer.
A visitation will be held on Saturday (Feb. 18) from 1 p.m. until a 3 p.m. memorial service at Barkley Funeral Home, 300 North Kentucky St., Greenup, IL 62428. An additional visitation will be held Saturday (March 17) from 1 p.m. until a 3 p.m. memorial service at The Spence-Miller Funeral Home, 2697 Columbus St., Grove City.
|USTA/Ed Keys photo|
Mr. Ewart, a native of Greenup, Ill., came from a harness racing family and first worked in the sport at the Cumberland County (Ill.) Fair. His first professional job in a racing office, arranged by his uncle John Jenuine, was as assistant race secretary at Northfield Park, and came in 1959, while on summer break from the University of Illinois, where Mr. Ewart was studying and playing basketball on scholarship.
“I knew then (while working at Northfield) that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” Mr. Ewart told Tom White in a 2009 article written for Hoof Beats. “It was a grand 47 years and I was able to see the very best of our sport in so many different areas of the United States. Our horses just kept getting faster each year.”
Phil Langley, U.S. Trotting Association president and director of racing at both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, who worked side-by-side with Mr. Ewart at Balmoral from 1969 through 1981, said, “I’ve known Jim since the 1970s. He was a world-class racing secretary, in addition to being a world-class person.”
Over the years Mr. Ewart worked as race secretary at 18 tracks in nine states, and in New Zealand and Australia -- perhaps most notably at Scioto Downs, where he worked from 1976 through 2002.
The best race field Mr. Ewart ever assembled -- according to him -- went to post in a $20,000 Invitational in his first year at Scioto Downs: “I had to twist some trainers’ arms. I made many, many phone calls. But we got a great field including Rambling Willie, Pickwick Baron, Adios Skipper and, the best pacer from Down Under, Young Quinn, who had won the Inter Dominion Pace. Pickwick Baron, driven by Mel Turcotte, set a world record of 1:56f, as the top three horses finished noses apart. The large crowd gave the horses and drivers a standing ovation.”
Mr. Ewart’s career came to an end following a stint at Indiana Downs, which lasted from 2002 to 2006. “It’s time to get back to the homestead,” Mr. Ewart said in an Indiana Downs press release announcing his retirement in March 2006. “I’d like to take my wife on a nice vacation. I’ve seen a lot of places and worked a lot of nights. It is nice to be a part of something new as you wind up your career. It’s time, you know.”
Mr. Ewart is survived by his wife, Sandy; daughters, Stephanie (Mike) Frazier and Michele; stepchildren, Nikki (Jim) Edwards, Lisa Dodrill and Stephanie (Tim) Tweed; grandchildren, Nicholas Frazier, Amber Williams, Whitney Smith, Lindsay Dodrill, Matt Dodrill, Kyle Tweed and Nathan Tweed; great-grandson, Ben (L.B.) Williams; brother, Howard (Nina); and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, 240 Main St., Goshen, NY 10924 or the American Cancer Society.