ALPENA, Mich. — James William Meyer, age 98, of Alpena, Michigan, passed away on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.
He was born on Feb. 4, 1922, in Huntertown, Indiana, to Daniel Ben Meyer and his wife, Anna Louise Senn.
Jim grew up on a farm, the son of a sharecropper. His mother died in childbirth when Jim was 5, and he was raised by his family, particularly his oldest sister, Marguerite. Friends and neighbors thought it best to send the children to relatives, but his father kept his family together. Their hardest year was 1933, in the Great Depression. The children were thrilled to receive a single orange from Santa Claus at Christmas. Jim was teased at school when he wore trousers sewn from horse blankets. His family had no running water or electricity. His chore was to carry water to the house from the well. Jim raised rabbits for his family to eat.
Jim enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 30, 1942. He wanted to become a pilot, but they said he would not pass the physics and math tests. He worked hard, and passed. They told him he was too short. He stood on his toes, and passed. They told him he would never swim the required mile. He practiced day and night, and he swam it.
He flew in Kalispell Montana, then Livermore California, then Corpus Christi Texas. He must have been a pretty good pilot, because they made him a flight instructor. Later they made him a dive bomber pilot.
He retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant in 1947. He has recorded his Helldiver stories at the U.S. Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
After the war, they told him he was not good enough in math and physics, but he worked hard, and got into Purdue University, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He worked for Westinghouse, then Leland Electric, working on an alternator for John Glenn’s rocket, “Friendship Seven”.
Jim married Joan McLain, of Ossian, Indiana, on June 30, 1951, at St. Aloysius Church in Yoder, Indiana.
They had two children, Barbara and Frederick, and lived in Lima, Ohio, and Dayton, Ohio.
He worked most of his career for the U.S. Air Force, at Wright Patterson AFB. Jim was responsible for the design and installation of the flare dispensers on the F15, F16, A10, F4, C131, and other aircraft. I wonder how many combat crews he saved?
At age 92, he came to live with his daughter and her husband in Alpena, Michigan.
This past September 2020, he joyfully visited his sister on her 105th birthday. Sister Mary Anna Clare is a Sister of the Fransiscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart near Chicago. She passed on Jan. 26, 2021, the day before Jim.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Joan on 2/28/2013, and by his siblings: Alphonsas, Eugene, Walter, Marguerite, Richard, Berniece (Sister Mary Anna Clare), Leo, Stella, Carl and Rose.
Jim is survived by his daughter, Barbara Anne (Walter) Jacquemin; his son, Frederick Michael Meyer; his grandchildren, Sally Anne (Kyle) Larsen, Catherine Marie (Luis) Benitez and Joseph Walter (Leanne) Jacquemin; and his great-grandchildren, Everly Jacquemin, Tess Jacquemin and Sofia Benitez.
“The Greatest Generation”, Indeed!
Graveside services with military honors will be held on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, at 11 a.m., at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Avilla, Indiana.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in Jim’s name to The Barbara A.
Jacquemin BSN, RN Scholarship Fund, ℅ The Alpena Community College Foundation, 665 Johnson St., Alpena, MI 49707.
To leave a condolence or sign the online guestbook, visit www.harperfuneralhomes.com.
Arrangements in care of Harper Funeral Homes, Avilla Chapel, 530 N. Main St., Avilla, IN 46710.
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