Aug. 17, 1960 – April 29, 2015
James Joseph Gnojek, of Orchard Park, a stunt car driver known as “Flying Jimmy Elvis,” died April 29 in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a two-year battle with a brain tumor. He was 54.
Born in Buffalo, he grew up in Elma and was a 1978 graduate of Iroquois Central High School, where he was a football player and a wrestler. He said he won every one of his wrestling matches, including two against his older brother, Joe.
He served in the Navy aboard the USS Guam as a machinist’s mate and was deployed to Grenada and Lebanon.
Returning from service, he became an auto mechanic and worked in several local Chevrolet dealerships.
He developed a passion for doing stunts as a boy, jumping his bicycle over a creek behind his home and jumping a 1965 Buick over the water from a ramp. As an adult, he raced and did stunts at Holland Speedway and other area auto tracks. He drove through mobile homes, jumped over school buses and rode a motorcycle through the Wall of Fire.
Earning himself the nickname “Flying Jimmy Elvis,” he appeared on Spike TV’s “Carpocalypse North vs. South Season 2” and in the Crash-A-Rama series at tracks on the East Coast and South, where his stunts included launching a speeding Lincoln Town Car limousine off a ramp into a mobile home and driving away unscathed.
He appeared on “Only in America” with Larry the Cable Guy and his stunts can be seen in YouTube.
An avid sportsman, he was a member of the Elma Conservation Club and ran its annual Kids Fishing Derby. The next derby June 7 will be dedicated to his memory.
He also was a member of the Harvey D. Morin Post 2940, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Survivors include his daughter, Melissa N.; two brothers, Joseph E. S., and Jan J.; and his grandmother, Mary.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 6441 Seneca St., Springbrook.