ROGERS, CONN. — Auctioneer James Edmond (“Smiling Jim”) Gaudreau, born September 17, 1937, died on December 25, at the age of 75 in his home, in which he was raised as an infant, with his loving family by his side.
James was born in Putnam, Conn., to Beatrice (Vachon) Gaudreau and Amie Gaudreau. As a child and into his teenage years, Jim lived in Rogers, Putnam, and Central village. When Jim was 14, his father died suddenly, and Jim was forced into the working field to help support his family’s household.
He worked as a stone mason and bricklayer while attending Putnam Trade School and in 1957 became a member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers Local #1. He retained his membership for many decades to follow, becoming highly skilled in the trowel trade working on projects such as building Day Kimball Hospital’s “modern addition,” the library at UConn, St Mary’s Church steeple in Putnam, much of the brick work at Hank’s Restaurant in Brooklyn, Conn., and endless masonry projects throughout Northeastern part of the state.
In 1957, he married the love of his life Claire (Tetreault) Gaudreau at All Hollows Church in Moosup, Conn., moved back to his hometown of Rogers, and started raising his family. In the following year, Jim found a new passion: “The buying and selling of almost anything.”
He had his first auction at the barn in Rogers in 1959 that went very well, earning him his nickname “Smiling Jim.” The years of 1963–1964 were busy ones for Jim. At the age of 26, he partnered with his friend John Callahan and built Trader JJs’ Flea Market on Route 101 in Dayville, he built his first home in Rogers, as well as his neighbor’s house, and helped in the construction of the Williamsville (Rogers) firehouse, of which he was a member for more than 50 years.
A few years later, he built Smiling Jim’s Trading Post, where he ran a secondhand store downstairs and had many memorable auctions upstairs, as well as holding auctions throughout northeastern Connecticut totaling well over 1,000 through the years, including many estate auctions and benefit auctions for just about any civic organization or church.
Jim sat on the Killingly Town Council along with his running mate Robert Hire for four years, tackling issues such as introducing the industrial park, naming Louisa Viens Drive, incorporating Planning and Zoning Commission, laying the path for getting the entire community of Alexander’s Lake hooked up to city sewer (often joking that he spent four years on the council to get his name on a bronze plaque mounted on a sewer pumping station).
Jim’s greatest personal desire was to protect the working class people of Killingly, often arguing late into the evenings with his fellow town councilors. After being struck with severe heart disease in 1984, at the age of 47, the doctors told the family that his likelihood of survival was not very good. Being a strong man and not liking what the doctors had to say, he defied science and fought with the issue, regained his strength, went into semiretirement, purchased a building next to his vacation home in Norway, Maine, and started Jim’s Lakeside Trading Post. He ran it on the weekends, making many good friends who enjoyed their weekend visits with him.
Doctors still do not understand why he survived for 28 years after his illness, other than a strong will to live and his spirituality, belonging as a life member of St Ignatius church in Rogers and later St Joseph’s Church in Dayville. Jim will always be remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing him as gentle but strong man, known for his honesty, integrity, helping out many people in need over the years, and of course, for his blue-eyed, infectious smile.
He is survived by Claire, his loving wife of 55 years; son James D. Gaudreau and his wife Donna of Rogers, daughter Patrice and her husband Tim St Onge of Ballouville, son Kevin Gaudreau and his wife Lisa of Rogers, son Jason Gaudreau and his wife Bonnie of Rogers; grandchildren Paul Cesolini and his wife Vanessa, James Gaudreau III and his fiancée Brittany, Ryan Gaudreau, Jonathan Cesolini, Shaina Gaudreau, Brandon Gaudreau, Benjamin Gaudreau, Alyssa Gaudreau, Conner Gaudreau; his two great-granddaughters Chloe and Olivia Cesolini; three adopted grandchildren; many nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws, as well as his former son-in-law and former daughters-in-laws. He was predeceased by his brothers Richard “Dick” Gaudreau, Robert “Bob” Gaudreau, and Donald “Donny” Gaudreau and several aunts and uncles.
Services took place January 5 at St Joseph’s Church in Dayville, and were followed by a celebration of life at Gaudreau’s Auction and Function Center. Memorial donations may be made to Williamsville Fire Engine Company PO Box 141, Rogers CT 06263 or Hospice of Northeastern CT, 320 Pomfret Street, Putnam CT 06260.