When the Expos came to town in 1969 I was seven years old. My dad, the late Lawrence Frederick Cohen (aka Larry Fredericks), was working for United Press International and covered every home game. He first started sending my brother Chuck and I to game with accompanying adults, but eventually made arrangements for us to be watched by the usher he became friendly with and got permission to have us wait outside the dressing room when he did interviews. It was around this time that we got to know Jim Fanning, who was the team's general manager. They called him "Gentleman Jim" for a reason. Most games he would make his way down from the press box and stop to talk to Chuck and I. We will always remember the time he got us authentic Expos caps right from the room. Boy were our friends jealous.
My dad became very friendly with Fanning. Whenever he invited him to one of our community sports banquets, he accepted without any hesitation. I joined my dad in the press box at the age of 18, by which time of course Fanning had other front office duties. We saw each other often and always engaged in interesting conversations. At one point the Expos created a new job for Fanning, as director of community relations. Charles Bronfman owned the club at that point and it was decided that his then young son Stephen would assist Fanning on a project whereby the players would go visit local schools and speak out against the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Fanning and young Stephen made a dynamite team and I followed them from school to school. Fanning even spent some time as a colour commentator on broadcasts.
"He was one of the most decent people I ever knew," Charles Bronfman said in an email to me about Fanning. "We remained good friends till his death. I had hoped to visit with him in Montreal this summer."
Added Stephen Bronfman: "I was with my dad yesterday, who was really sad. Jim Fanning is the the last of them -Jim, Gene (Mauch) and John (McHale) have all passed. He certainly was gentleman Jim and he had much patience with me as with all of his 'kids.' A special guy who Montreal will surely miss."
Here is a video message from Fanning made just last year for Expos Nation about his hope for a return of the Expos to Montreal.