Divers recover body of fisherman

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By Alice Du Pont

The body of a 35-year-old Jimmy Donaldson, Jr., the Gadsden County man missing from Lake Talquin since late Friday night, Nov. 16, was recovered Monday, Nov. 21, around 5 p.m. Family and friends had kept vigil since Donaldson's boat capsized in choppy waters and high winds  Friday night, Nov. 18. Both Donaldson and his uncle, Claude Jackson, were thrown into lake. The boat was found Saturday but no sign of Donaldson.
    The two had gone fishing with family members, including his father, and friends but were in three separate boats fishing for catfish and speckled perch.
    Searchers including, the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, Leon County Dive Team, the Fish and Wildflife Commission, Leon County helicopter search, Florida-Georgia Search and Rescue and the Lowndes County (Ga.) Dive team, had been looking for Donaldson since Friday night.
    The Lowndes County Sheriff called Monday morning and offered Sheriff Morris Young his help. When the 8-member team arrived around 3 p.m. Young was waiting to welcome them. After a briefing from FWC the men suited up and were taken to the spot where the small boat capsized near Hinson's Point. The same area where cadaver dogs had shown interest earlier in the day.
    About 30 minutes after the Georgia divers slipped into the 60 degree water in full diving gear, they recovered Donaldson's body.He was identified by his father and sister when they brought him ashore.
    "They had been fishing all week. I stopped by his house Friday afternoon and my son and his uncle, Claude Jackson, were talking about going fishing. I told them they couldn't leave me and I would meet them down here. We all got down here about 11 o'clock Friday night. The wind was picking up and dying down. We were fishing in the deep water and it was pretty calm and then, all of a sudden, the wind picked up. The water rushed in and the boat flipped. He was wearing a life jacket but I guess he didn't fasten it because they found one in the water," said Jimmy Donaldson, Sr., sitting on the porch of the Whippoorwill Sportsman Lodge at the end of Cook's Landing Road.
    The glassy, calm surface of the lake Monday afternoon belied the tragedy that had taken place and changed a family forever, less than 72 hours earlier.
    Donaldson said he left the lake when one particularly hard gust of wind rocked his boat. Another fisherman said he urged Donaldson and Jackson to get off the lake. The wind, he said, was too unpredictable.
    Except for a few hours Saturday night when Donaldson went home, he has been at the lake constantly. First, hoping his son had made it to shore and would be found alive and when that seemed to be impossible, he wanted his remains found. All the time, he was haunted by the sounds of his son and Jackson calling for help in the pitch black water. He was standing near the dock when another fisherman rescued Jackson and brought him in.
    "I knew when my son wasn't brought in that ... I just knew," he said quietly, of his oldest child and namesake.
    Monday afternoon he wanted to bring closure, said the father of 10 children.
    "All we can do now is hope and pray that this will all be over soon. All of the people here have been very nice. They've given us food, drinks, and a lot of support since we've been here. There are good people here," he said, he said of the people who live around the lake and heard about the tragedy.
    Looking away in the distance at the lake that still held his son, Donaldson said he took all of his children fishing that kept them close. The family called the younger Donaldson "worm" because when he was a baby, his father said, he squirmed a lot.
    "He loved to fish, just like I do. I taught him to fish when he was just a little boy. As he got older, he fished more than me. He did odd jobs for a living, whatever people needed to get done, he would do it," said Donaldson Sr., adding, "I think he did that just so he could fish when he wanted to," said Donaldson, attempting to smile.
    Donaldson is the second drowning victim in the county in the past 90 days. William Bostic drowned in a pond near Greensboro in September.