JONESBORO, Ill. - James E. "Jim" West Jr. of Jonesboro, Ill., a veteran and friend to all, died at the VA Hospital in Marion, Ill., February 11, 2014.
He was born on May 27, 1945, to the "Greatest Generation Ever" at the home of the 8th Air Force at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota, to James E. West Sr. and Doris West.
He was preceded in death by his father, James E. West Sr. He is survived by his wife, Angel Conroy West of Jonesboro, Ill.; his mother, Doris West of Marion, Ill.; four daughters, Melanie West Burkeen (Billy Burkeen) of Paducah, Sarah West (Brett Witthoft) of Benton, Caitlyn Conroy West (Bobby Toler) of Cobden, Ill., and Lexi West of Jonesboro, Ill. He had five grandchildren, Callie Rudd, James "Harper" Burkeen, Livie Burkeen, Toxey Rudd and Weston Rudd. He had two younger siblings, a brother, Andy West (Veronica) of Marion, Ill.; and a sister, Betsy West Harris (Dallas) of Clinton, Ill. There were many other people whom he considered his own. The impact he had on their lives and the ways in which he helped to mold and shape them are immeasurable. They know who they are.
Jim was a man's man and loved his friends dearly, some more than life itself. He had patience like no other. God created him to handle raising girls. At that, he was a pro. He loved his wife and family above all. He was a teacher and mentor to many. He enjoyed golfing, drinking cold beer, listening to good music and was known for his harmonica playing skills and his beautiful voice. He was an avid outdoorsman. He loved camping, exploring, hunting and mostly the comradery that came with it. He would rather retreat to his camp in Mill Creek, Illinois, than go on vacation anywhere else. He loved Union County and its rich history. He enjoyed his guns, target shooting, and shooting skeet.
In 2001, he was diagnosed with T cell lymphoma. At that point he had an epiphany which some may wrongly mistake for a mid-life crisis. He chose to spend the rest of his life with no regrets, living his life to the fullest with no worries or concerns as to what anybody else thought.
Jim was a friend to most people he's known. He has never been one to say a bad word about anyone; if he didn't like someone or something he kept it to himself. Jane Fonda was the exception to this rule, and he will probably continue cursing her in heaven. He was a proud man, but never boastful. He was a genius, with a very high IQ and the ability to read something and retain it forever. He loved war history, US history, and the history of Southern Illinois. He was an exceptional man not only because of his glowing accolades, but also because of his outlook on life and his ability to deal with whatever was handed to him with his head held high and never one single complaint.
He was a 1963 graduate of Anna Jonesboro Community High School. He excelled in academics and football and played as a lineman at AJCHS. He received a scholarship to Carthage College, a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, located on the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin, between Chicago and Milwaukee. He played football at Carthage as an offensive lineman during the 1964-1965 school year. In 1965 he transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. He attended SIU until he enlisted in the US Air Force.
He was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He was a member of 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. While in the service he served as a historian, writer, print and publication specialist, information specialist, and a combat reporter for the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing for the Seventh Air Force Feedback. He also was instrumental in publishing and writing for the "Phan Fare" for those stationed in Phan Rang. He was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of journalism during his tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as a combat news reporter "for exposing himself to the dangers of enemy fire on many occasions to obtain some of the best press releases ever to come out of a war zone." He voluntarily joined the Air Force on January 13, 1966. He was stationed at Elgin Air Force Base in Ft Walton Beach, Fla., and Niagara Falls Air Force Base, 4621 Air Base Group in Niagara Falls, N.Y. On November 22, 1967, he went to Vietnam and returned to the States on February 1, 1969. His was honorably released from active duty on May 28, 1969. He had advanced training as an Information Specialist as well as in the field of Military Journalism. He was accommodated with the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal, and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Medal.
During his service in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange and came home with "jungle rot" on his skin. The rash eventually progressed to T-Cell lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was a very proud veteran and a lifetime member of the VFW, Anna, Ill., Post 3455. His civil post service has been as Chairman of Public Relations as well as a House Committee Member.
Jim enjoyed a lifelong career in the newspaper business. He was first a reporter for the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He then moved to Vandalia, Ill., where he was the editor of the Vandalia Leader. He returned to his hometown of Anna, Ill., as the editor of the Gazette-Democrat. He later served as the production manager and finally as the general manager, a post he held for more than 30 years. Additionally, Jim was Vice President of North Scott Publishing and served on the board of directors of Cape Central Publishing. Jim earned the honor of Master Editor from the Southern Illinois Editorial Association. He was an outstanding photographer and an expert with US Postal issues.
He was of Lutheran faith and was raised in Mount Moriah Church in Anna, IL. He was a member of the Old Men's Fishing, Hunting, and Camping Association and relished the time spent in the woods with his uncles, cousins and friends. He participated in Annual deer camps, squirrel camps, and turkey camp with his close friends.
He was an original member of the Great Boars of Fire with Dave Fombelle, Jerry McFadden, Bob Lyrla, John Belcher, Sonny Beanland and Richard Sheeley. They experienced great success in competitive barbeque cooking. The Great Boars Of Fire won 1st place in shoulders at Memphis in May World Champion Barbeque Cook Off. They also hold the record for the highest points ever scored at the Jack Daniels' World Champion Invitational. For four consecutive years the team was ranked in the top 10 in the World by Memphis in May. They also have won The Illinois and Missouri State Championship.
He served on the Anna Jonesboro Water Commission. He was a member first appointed to fill a position when Louis Wayne Bauer passed away. He was then appointed by the City of Jonesboro to represent them. Following that, he was reappointed to the Board in 2011. He served as the Board's Treasurer.
A graveside service with military rites will be held on Saturday, February 15, 2014, at 1 p.m. at Anna Cemetery with Pastor Marlin Otte officiating. Jim's nephews, Sam and Ben West, will provide music. Friends are asked to go directly to the cemetery. Graveside military honors will be conducted by the Carroll P. Foster Post #3455 of the V.F.W. in Anna and the Illinois Army National Guard Military Honors Team of Marion. Everyone is invited to attend a celebration of Jim's life directly after the graveside service at the VFW in Anna. There will be an escorted procession by the Patriotic Guard Riders. Any other bikers who would like to honor Jim, whether they knew him or not, are encouraged to come to the Anna Cemetery and escort him, his family and friends to the VFW Post 3455 located at 70 VFW Lane, in Anna, Ill.
Rendleman and Hileman Funeral Home in Jonesboro are handling arrangements. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy can be made to the VFW Post 3455.
Jim would want everyone to take this away from his passing. His outlook on life was this - Life is short, too short to dwell or fret over things that don't matter in the long run. Treat everyone with the kindness and respect. Enjoy life to the fullest. Laugh, smile, and do the things that make you happiest and be with the people that bring out the best in you. Stay away from drama and don't create it. Don't judge others, you don't know what is going on in their own life. Always be a friend, provide a helping hand when someone needs it, and rely on your friends when you need them most. Lastly, always listen to music, it can take you away from any situation and put you in a better place.
To leave online condolences for the family, visit, www.rendlmeanhilemanfh.com
Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Home in Jonesboro is in charge of arrangements.