James A. “Slim” Meyer, 72, of Galesburg, died at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, September 13, 2023, at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.
He was born December 8, 1950, in Galesburg, the son of Gregory J. and Gladys Irene (Ohnsman) Meyer. He married Rose “China” Barragan on October 9, 1976, in Galesburg.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 47 years, China; children, Aaron (Lily) Meyer of Orange County, California and Michele Meyer of Nashville, Tennessee; two grandsons, James and Jacob; a sister, Rosemary Schira of West Des Moines, Iowa; his mother-in-law, Helen Barragan of Galesburg; sisters-in law and brothers-in-law, who loved him dearly as he loved them as well; and many beloved nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews, including a special great nephew, Tavian Campbell. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Bill; and father-in-law Joe Barragan.
He was a best friend to many, an adopted father figure to more than a few, and a hero to all. He lived his life with a genuine infectious optimism. Slim never met a stranger. No matter the circumstances, he always had time for anyone and everyone. When you spoke to him, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. For that reason, so many would seek his wisdom and advice in their toughest of times. Regardless of the issue, any confidant walked away knowing everything was going to be ok and certain about the way forward. He would do anything for anyone, but never breathed a word about it.
Because he would often be caught outside talking for hours to a neighbor, passerby, or friend while mowing the yard shirtless in his jean shorts, Slim walked happily back inside his house to many cold dinners. He couldn’t complain even if he wanted to.
Slim worked for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for 38 years as a locomotive engineer before retiring in December 2010. He made many dear friends on the railroad. Without fail, he stood up for his friends and co-workers, even at times to his own peril.
He was a master woodworker. He spent years dedicating himself to handcrafting every detail of the family home. Because he loved China so much, he wanted to give her the best of everything. It was known affectionately as “The House that Slim built.” The walls, the ceiling, and even the trim on the appliances contain his painstakingly intricate woodwork. He loved sitting for hours on end with his grandkids in his workshop, patiently teaching them the craft he had taught himself.
Slim-Meyer-crafted tables, cabinets, Adirondack chairs, hutches, baseball bat racks, jewelry boxes, bowls, and boats sit in homes and toy boxes across this country. All gifts. He loved golfing and was a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs and Bears. He loved his dog and chair companion, Cooper.
He was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantry Badge (of which he was the most proud). His re-connection and annual trips with his “Vietnam Buddies” in recent years meant the world to him. America had finally welcomed him home, and he was at peace.
His oldest and closest friends came from the “Rice House Gang:” John, Tim, Elmo, Chris, Tony, Angelo, Eric, Paul, Mike K, and Mike H. Loyal to the end, if you can judge a man by his friends, Slim’s legacy was monumental.
Visitation will be 10:30 to noon Saturday, September 30, 2023, at Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Services Galesburg Chapel. Funeral service will follow at noon at the chapel. Burial with Military Honors will be in St. Joseph Cemetery. Following the burial, the family will host a celebration at “The House that Slim Built.” Memorial contributions may be made to Disabled American Veterans (“DAV”). Online condolences may be left on the funeral home’s website at www.h-p-w.com.