Meet Jimmy Belmont, the other brother

Meet Jimmy Belmont, the other brother

TOLEDO, Ohio (Feb. 27, 2018) -- It's difficult to imagine the immense and sudden infiltration of pain and sorrow that was altogether thrust upon Chic and Sandy Belmont when the call came in one warm summer night. That one that parents have nightmares over regularly; but quite fortunately, more often than not, for no reason. That wasn't the case for the Belmont family, when, just past midnight, like an alarm in the silence of the night, the old-fashioned dial-up phone rang out.

It was the hospital calling with instructions to come over.

"My mother was never the same from that day forward," said Andy Belmont. "And it was always 10-times worse when his birthday would come around."

Jimmy Belmont, the middle brother between oldest Andy and youngest Kevin Belmont, was gone, struck by a speeding teenager while Jimmy was nursing his motorcycle alongside the road. It happened on a neighborhood street.

"He was 21 years old. It was the summer time…July 21st," said Jimmy's father Chic Belmont. "His motorcycle wouldn't start and he was pushing it on the side of the road. A 16-year-old kid had an argument with his girlfriend down the street. He came around the bend and killed Jimmy instantly. We were sound asleep in bed…got a call at 12:30 in the morning. The last thing they said was that we 'didn't have to hurry.'

"You never get over it; but it gets easier with time. You never forget. Jimmy was absolutely the free spirit of the family, a very caring and loving person. He thought an awful lot about kids. I think about him every day. You're going along in life and something will remind me of him. It was the same way for my wife."

Chic and Sandy Belmont were married at 17, and remained that way for 60 years before she passed last October.

"He was exceptionally smart…always the one in school in the advanced classes. He could do anything, go anywhere and earn a living…talk his way into anything. There were kids around town who couldn't get jobs...Jimmy could go anywhere and get one. Like a lot of kids that age, he went through some pretty rough times; but he was coming out of all that.

"Jimmy loved racing too…he just never got the opportunity. He just liked to go wherever he wanted…jump in and go off to Florida, wherever. He did more living in 21 years than you do in a lifetime."

The accident happened on a Friday night. Andy was scheduled to race his modified on the Nazareth Speedway half-mile dirt Sunday.

"The decision to race started with me and my wife. We just decided it's what Jimmy would want us to do."

Like Jimmy's parents, brothers Andy and Kevin were grieving right along.

"We really didn't know what we should do," said Andy. "My dad decided that we were going to race that weekend…it's what Jimmy (pictured sixth from left, sitting down next to his mom) would have wanted us to do, so we did. We won the heat and the first 50-lap feature...swept the board. The track presented us with a black flag in victory lane.

"He was a rebel," Andy continued. "I'm telling you he packed a lot of life in 21 years. There was a period where he was getting himself into too much trouble and nonsense; but about a year before he died, he snapped out of that and life was good.

"One time, he just got up and said he was going to the Kentucky Derby…hitchhiked all the way there.

"He had like a 160 IQ. Nothing in life challenged him. He was brilliant. He could figure in his head what took most people a calculator. The women adored him. He gave mom flowers the day he died. It still hurts. I think about how neat it would be to have another conversation with him…I've thought about that a lot. I still cry when I go to his grave."

Patty Haney was a close friend and neighbor of the Belmonts, and lived a few doors down, across the street.

"Great personality…would do anything for you," said Haney. "I remember the day he died. Mr. Belmont came down the street, came into our kitchen and sat on the step in our kitchen and cried like a baby.

"Jimmy (pictured far right, sitting on left-rear tire) liked racing, but he had other interests that didn't always fit the mould. He was really into horticulture. He was really smart, not afraid to be different…heart of gold."

Kevin was just 16 when he lost his older brother.

"I really admired his determination. He was my older brother and I looked up to him. He was so determined to do things on his own. He wanted to race like the rest of us; but he never accepted any money. He always said, 'If I can't do it on my own; I'm not doing it.' That was Jimmy. We got kind of close the last few years…him the black sheep. I felt bad for him and tried to help.

"There was nothing he couldn't do. He was like a cat…always fell on his feet running…always determined to do it his own way. He was interesting and colorful. He had a heart of gold. If you said you needed 10 bucks and were starving, he'd give you his last 10 bucks. That's who he was...the first to give you his shirt off his back. Big Led Zeppelin fan. He had every cassette…he knew everything about Led Zeppelin. For whatever reason, his favorite song was Miracles by Jefferson Starship...he'd listen to it over and over. Every time I hear it I think of him. His birthday is May 28…the Charlotte races always remind me of him.

"I remember once he was dating some girl who had a child. Jimmy took care of that child like it was his own. He even helped look after him after they split up. That was Jimmy.

"I think about him every day," Kevin said. For the record, Andy and Chic said the same thing, pushing 40 years later.

"It's just life. You remember all the good times and just go on. It doesn't mean you ever forget," Chic said. "Jimmy dug up a little pine tree from our house in the Poconos one year, brought it home and planted it next to the house. Big pine tree now…we just keep trimming it. It's probably breaking the foundation; but I don't care."

After hearing some of the stories, it's comforting to know that time has helped the healing; but it's also plain to see that the base alloy of pain remains.

Jimmy Belmont is buried next to his mother Sandy "Mom" Belmont at Sunset Memorial Park in Feasterville, Pennsylvania.

Editor's Notes: Since I started with this photo, it seemed appropriate to end with it, to try and capture the essence of who he was. I know faces, and there's something here with this one. The look in his eyes is memorizing. He knows something the rest of us don't. That cat's clearly going places, whether anyone knew it or not. Jimmy Belmont sounds exactly like the person I would have liked to have gotten to know...that free-spirited type, whose mind you always wanted to tap into, a rebel with a cause who would always lead you on an amazing adventure. By all accounts, he was one cool dude who was not afraid to be who he was...that takes courage. If he was a bit different with a "black sheep" flare during the rough patches, so be it. Truth is, we're all different, which should always be celebrated, nothing less. Jimmy Belmont would have been something great. Of course his brother Andy is quick to point out that "he was already great." But oh what might have been. Some of the words used to describe Jimmy from the people who knew him best...articulate, drop-dead handsome, great personality, kind, caring, loving, exceptionally intelligent, troubled at times, fearless, proud, black sheep, rebel, determined, interesting, creative, colorful, brave, adventurous, free-spirited, brilliant, liked racing but more into horticulture. To me, this sounds like the making of a fascinating man who could have conquered the world, and would not have been a bit afraid to go after it. He didn't want to be anyone else other than who he was, and that's off-the-charts admirable. He wasn't really the odd man out after all. He was Jimmy Belmont. Rest in peace...

Don Radebaugh
dradebaugh@arcaracing.com

Comments
J.Larry Neal

Thank you Don for this story. It is such an interesting read. I never had any idea that the Belmont  family went thru this sad time in their lives. May Jimmy rest in peace.

ANDY B.

Don: Please accept my apology that I didn't get you the photo of the headstone that you asked for. To this day I just get way torn up when I go to his grave. I do appreciate the story. Not a day goes by that I don't wish he was still here. AB

Don Radebaugh

No worries Andy...appreciate all your help. I like ending with the photo of Jimmy better anyway...

Darin A.

A very sad story, but a very good read about another piece of Belmont history. Great article, Don.

Don Radebaugh

Thanks Darin...appreciate all your input on the chat board too...

Jennifer B.

Great story Don. Jimmy had passed away before I had met Andy but when we were married he talked about him a lot. Sandy would tell stories about him and laugh at some of the stuff he did and then she would say "You know, you can replace a man, you can never replace a child". As our sons got older, they wanted to know about Jimmy. Chic, Sandy, Andy & Kevin would tell them stories about him and say that, Jimmy was different, a free spirit, very smart and fearless. Andy & I were married almost 25 years, I had never met Jimmy but he was always talked about, especially by Andy. I just wanted to say thank you for writing the story because when he passed away, there was no social media etc, so it's nice that you took the time to write this story.

Don Radebaugh

Many thanks Jen. When Andy sent me the close-up photo, I really connected with it. Powerful images always speak to me. Then and there I was determined to make a story. It's important to keep those memories alive. Hope Jimmy liked it too...

Wes h.

As always Don,well done. For as long as I have known AB, this was a part of the Belmont family story I knew almost nothing about. How proud the Belmonts must be of this wonderful son who lives on everyday in their memory. 

Don Radebaugh

Thanks Wes. I learned of Jimmy through Patty. She drove me by her house on Ruth Street one day in Feasterville. Then showed me where the Belmonts lived a few doors down. Since that time, the story has always intrigued me. Guess this is my way of getting to know Jimmy. RIP.....

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