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Golden Valley Fire Department holding memorial for former director Kanelos

Jim Kanelos

GOLDEN VALLEY - Members of the Golden Valley Fire District will gather from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday with friends and family to remember District Director Jim Kanelos, who was killed Sept. 1 in a single-car crash on Oatman Road.

Kanelos, a man Fire Chief Tom O'Donohue described as a "wonderfully quirky and unique human being," was 64.

The informal memorial service at GVFD Station 11, 3480 N. Bacobi Road, will include a slide show and a finger-food potluck lunch.

Kanelos' friends and family are welcome to share their memories; something O'Donohue has plenty of after working with Kanelos.

"Jim was always a fierce supporter of constitutional rights," said O'Donohue.

The chief said shortly after Kanelos was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Golden Valley Fire District board of directors, the man voted no on an issue everyone thought would be unanimously approved.

"I asked him why, and he said, 'Because somebody should vote no.' I had a much better understanding of Jim after that."

O'Donohue said Kanelos held government accountable.

"Whether it was the District or Mohave County for wearing his red, white and blue hat to a meeting, Jim believed in the rights our forefathers fought for and he transferred that belief to his duties on the board of directors," said O'Donohue.

Sometimes, Kanelos took action that was designed to ruffle feathers - feathers many in the community believe needed to be ruffled.

In March of 2011, for instance, Kanelos was one of about 15 people protesting the county's dress code and weapons and flag policies outside of the county administration building.

At one point he was warned about trespassing at the publicly-owned county complex and was later arrested that same day when he put on a hat and waved a small American flag inside the building during a Board of Supervisors meeting.

Both the hat and the flag were in violation of county policies in effect at the time.

Deputies with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office handcuffed Kanelos and led him to jail when he refused to remove the star-spangled hat or put away the flag.

Kanelos had the last laugh. He filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the county seeking more than $40 million. The case was tossed, but not before

Mohave County repealed the unpopular dress code.

Kanelos would file a federal lawsuit against the county for preventing him from passing out copies of the Constitution in front of the county offices.

He sought millions of dollars in that case as well, but what he really wanted, according to Kanelos at the time, is what he got - a federal judge ruled the county's prohibition against leafleting was wholly unconstitutional and unreasonable.

"He believed strongly in freedom and rights and he did more than offer lip service," said O'Donohue.

"We (the fire district) were the closest thing Jim had to family in Mohave County. We owe it to him to have this service. He was a member of this organization and he helped build this station."

The District at their Sept. 18 meeting will solicit applications to fill the vacancy left by Kanelos' death. The board of directors will select the applicant, who will fill the seat until the November 2014 elections.


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