Jim Fine — entrepreneur, marketer, indefatigable bon vivant, avid “06880” reader (and frequent commenter) died Sunday of acute myeloid leukemia. He was 66 years old and lived in Weston, following many years in Westport.
Jim was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on November 28, 1945. After a peripatetic and indifferent secondary school career, he found his true home at Bard College, where he was active in dramatic productions with such classmates as Blythe Danner and Chevy Chase.
According to Bard legend Jim helped bring together two students — Walter Becker and Donald Fagen — who became Steely Dan.
After graduating in 1968, Jim remained relentlessly active in Bard affairs. In recognition of his love for it, and his commitment to its welfare, the welcome/reception area at the new Bard Alumni Center will be named in his honor.
As an ad man Jim worked under the personal guidance of Bill Bernbach at the Doyle Dayne Bernbach agency on such accounts as Shell, Polaroid and Clairol. He later founded and operated Fine Child, Inc., an infant products company that introduced the Maclaren Stroller to the United States.
Jim also served as president of Sassy in Chicago, developing and marketing a wide variety of products for children. He completed his career as president of Just Fine & Dandy in Westport, linking foreign and domestic manufacturers with major retailers like WalMart, Target and Toys R Us.
Yet Jim’s career as a businessman was merely a cover for his true calling: raconteur and life of the party in any room or venue anywhere that would have him, both charming and exasperating strangers and staff in equal measure. It was impossible to share Jim’s table without befriending everyone else in the restaurant that night.
In 2006 and ’07 he took his show abroad, roaming Italy for a year with his beloved wife, Nina Skaya.
Jim was a news junkie and vocal Democrat, with several letters to the editor published in the New York Times. Yet he was always welcomed imaginatively reasoned arguments from any political or religious persuasion — provided there was proper grammar and diction.
Jim is survived by his partner of 13 years and wife, Nina Skaya, and 3 children from his previous marriage — Samantha, Joshua and Alexandra Fine — and a granddaughter, Jane.
A memorial gathering will be held at the Westport Public Library this Sunday, (December 18, 10:30 a.m.). Contributions in his memory may be sent to the Jim Fine Fund, c/o Bard College Alumni Office, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504.