The massage therapist who created what is believed to be the first team of massage therapists to provide massage to emergency-response workers has died from cancer, age 53.

In 1989, massage therapist James “Jim” Charlesworth was an admissions counselor for the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, California, when the Loma Prieta Earthquake hit.

“Across the street from NHI was the horrible highway collapse,” read an obituary posted on the website of Emergency Response Massage International. “He mobilized a massage team and worked with many volunteers giving 8,000 massages to relief workers to ease those providing rescue efforts. The mayor of San Francisco acknowledged his commitment to the city.”

Charlesworth later worked with the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) to launch the association’s Massage Emergency Response Teams (MERT) program, which trains massage therapists in methods and regulations related to working with emergency responders such as firefighters and search-and-rescue personnel, and sends teams of massage therapists to disaster sites.

Charlesworth is survived by his partner, Victor Carillo; his mother, Jeanne Charlesworth; sister Kim Falk; and brothers Wade, John and Bryan Charlesworth.

A memorial ceremony for Jim Charlesworth will be held on Sat., June 12 from Noon to 4 p.m., at the Lakeside Room, Heather Farm Park, 1540 Marchbanks Dr., in Walnut Creek, California. For more information about the memorial call (925) 256-3575. In lieu of flowers, a donation in Charlesworth’s name may be sent to Emergency Response Massage International (a group not affiliated with MERT), C/o Ronda S. Villa, Treasurer, ERMI Inc., 4539 Great Oak Dr., North Carolina, SC 29418.