Remembering Sanibel Firefighter James ‘Jimmy’ Anholt

Published: January 24, 2023 3:35 PM EST
Updated: January 24, 2023 6:15 PM EST

Remembering a man for the service he dedicated to his life for decades. James Anholt worked in the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District from 1970 until he retired.

Anholt passed away earlier this year, but not before leaving a lasting impact on those closest to him.

James Anholt, Jimmy, to those he loved and loved him, was 81 years old when he died.

“Next month, we would have been married 59 years,” said Betty Anholt, James’ wife.

James ‘Jimmy’ Anholt and his wife Betty Anholt. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

“My hero, my absolute hero, along with all these guys here,” said James’ daughter Morganna Anholt.

Jimmy meant the world to his family, including his son Cameron, and his grandson and namesake, James.

WINK News reporter Emma Heaton asked Cameron, “Walk me through what Jim means to you.”

“Everything,” he said.

James ‘Jimmy’ Anholt. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

Jimmy’s first year with the Sanibel Fire and Rescue was in 1970. He started as a volunteer and quickly became a firefighter who was ready to risk his life every day of the 40 years he served.

“To me, he was a mentor. He taught me a lot of the things that I know now and carry with me to this day,” said Lieutenant Brian Howell, with Sanibel Fire and Rescue.

Jimmy’s family told stories of their loved one’s bravery and willingness to protect others regardless of the day or time, on duty or off.

One night inside his home, Jimmy heard a crash. “He leaped out of bed and ran up there, and a car had rolled over, and where the Lazy Flamingo is today, it was called Seven Seas. And the car was upside down lying there, and he could only see the woman’s hand sticking out from under the car,” said Betty.

“He held her hand until everybody else got there. I was there that night with him, and it was a successful rescue,” said Cameron.

Jimmy’s wife, Betty, said that woman is alive thanks to her husband.

“She’s always been grateful to dad,” said Morganna.

Jimmy died on January 13 peacefully at home.

“That morning, he simply did not wake up when the alarm went off. And I called 911. And my daughter answered. She’s a dispatcher. And everybody came,” said Betty.

James ‘Jimmy’ Anholt. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

Jimmy’s family, and the men and women who served by his side, will never forget who he was, the lessons of courage and bravery he shared, or his kindness.

“He was always there when his community needed him. And so a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work over the years,” said Sanibel Police Chief William Dalton.

Jimmy’s wife made sure his friends knew that they were just as important to him as he was to them. “Jim wasn’t born on this island on Sanibel, but he certainly was born for this island. And he loved it. And he loved all you guys. I so appreciate that. Thank you.”

The Sanibel Fire and Rescue District was filled wall to wall with people who loved Jimmy Anholt. On the table were medals that his daughter calls the “fire history” of her father.

To those who share the same uniform he wore, Jimmy was a friend, teacher, and role model.

“He wanted to kind of take you under his wing, show you exactly what to do, how to do it the right way. But also, you know, hold you accountable and make sure you knew how to do it,” said Howell.

“He was one of the first guys that came right up to you, and he helped you. I mean, it changed my life,” said Boomer Carrol, a retired firefighter.

James ‘Jimmy’ Anholt. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

Howell said Jimmy always helped people, even off duty, including a time when he rescued a woman from the grip of a 13-foot alligator.

“Willing to help anybody, anytime, anywhere. And his personality and his attitude at work, every shift. He was always upbeat. He was happy. You know, he was proud to work here, proud of the people,” Howell said.

Jimmy’s family, his firefighter family, and his friends laid him to rest.

The lessons he taught about good character and how to be a good man are never to be forgotten.

“He was my hero,” said Jimmy’s grandson James.

“I know he did not want to retire. He would still be doing this today if he could. He loved the job,” said Howell.