Born on May 8 1929 in El Dorado Kansas, Jack Dean Eighmey walked in into the loving embrace of his parents Paul and Myrtle, younger brother Bill, and grandson Aaron on August 31 2017. At the time he left us Jack was at peace, at home, and surrounded by his family.
The history of Jacks family in Kansas had been interwoven with Oil and Gas exploration for many years. His Grandfather John had followed the oil derricks from Pennyslvania, through Mexico, Texas, Ohio, and finally to central Kansas. His father Paul ran a filling station in the Oil Town of El Dorado when Jack was young and later spent many years working for the Gas Service Company.
Like many children of the American Depression years, Jack’s early life was filled with hard work and little material wealth. He would often spend his summers in Western Kansas working alongside his cousins on their farm. These were times which he remembered fondly in later years. A talented athlete in many sports, he recalled having to play football in old canvas shoes due to the leather shortage during the war years.
Paul William (Bill) Eighmey joined the family in 1934, and James Bruce Eighmey in 1939. The eldest of three boys, Jack was often tasked with looking out for his brothers. Eventually Paul Sr.’s work with the Gas Service Company brought the family to Sedgewick Kansas. There the Eighmey boys became well known locally for their fast cars and many hijinks. Jack graduated from Sedgewick High School in 1948.
From an early age Jack showed an aptitude for mechanics and a love of aircraft. While in High School, and against his mother’s inclinations, he and his friends had acquired access to various surplus aircraft and had begun learning to fly, crash, and repair them. As soon as he turned sixteen Jack obtained his “official” private pilot’s license. After graduation he went on to classes at Wichita State College and a New Job at Boeing Aircraft Co.
By this time the Korean War had begun and the inevitability of being called to service led Jack to the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1950 he did his basic training at the Great Lakes Navel Station. From there he was sent on to Texas, and finally to his permanent station at Cecil Field in Jacksonville Florida. Jack was deployed with his air wing aboard the U.S.S. Midway for a Mediterranean and Atlantic tour. This was an era of experimentation and great danger in Navel aviation. On the Midway Jack helped maintain many types of aircraft including the last active squadron of F4U Corsairs as well as the relatively primitive Jet aircraft in use at the time. Accidents were common and horrific as Naval aviation transitioned from WWII to modern technologies and techniques. He made memories, but also lost friends on this deployment. He was always proud of his service on the Midway.
After an honorable discharge in 1954 as an AD 2nd class Jack returned to Sedgewick and his work at Boeing. At this time he worked on the flight line out doors keeping a fleet of B24 bombers ready for instant action during the cold war. Judith Stroud knew of the Eighmey boys through Jack’s brother Bill, but was first introduced to Jack after singing at a mutual friends wedding. They were married November 25th 1956 in Newton Kansas.
To Judy and Jack were born two children, James in 1959 and Jan in 1962. By 1963 the family had moved to Neosho Missouri where Jack was employed by the Defense Contract Administration at the new Rocketdyne plant developing the engines for the Saturn V rocket. When the program was finally shuttered in 1972 Jack continued his work out of the Wichita office and the family relocated to Mulvane Kansas. Judy and Jack moved back to Neosho in 1985 while Jack inspected various small contracts in the region. After 37 years in Civil Service Jack retired in 1989. He and Judy remained in Neosho until 1995 when they moved to the Lawrence Kansas area to be closer to their daughter Jan and her family.
The Eighmey family spent much of their leisure time in travel and outdoor activities. Jack and Judy both enjoyed camping, hunting, and fishing as young people and they passed these skills to their children. The big event of each year was the two weeks of Jack’s summer vacation. The camper would be loaded and the adventure would begin. Anywhere that could be reached in a week of driving was a possible destination. By the time they were adults Jan and Jim had been in almost every National Park and a sizeable number of the National Monuments in the American West. Jack was also active in the Boy Scouts and ushered Jim through 12 years of Scouting, culminating in a trip together to Philmont in 1974. What they could not know is how these times together turned out to life-changing gifts to their children.
It can be said without reservation that there were very few electronic or mechanical devices that Jack Eighmey could not, and would not, repair. Self-sufficiency in the household was simply an assumption. The only time his vehicles were in a shop was when tools were required which could not be made, rented, or improvised, which was very seldom. Machines in the Eighmey house were immortal. Nothing was allowed to “wear out”. Above all Jack Eighmey had a talent and fascination with things that fly. Although a severe ear infection in the Navy left him vulnerable to airsickness, he never lost his interest in aircraft. From a young age he built flying model aircraft, and after he no longer had full size planes to tinker with, he returned to the hobby with a passion.
Jack Dean Eighmey was then, and remaines always, beloved by his family as a father, friend, husband and brother. He is survived and remembered by his wife Judy, his brother Bruce Eighmey, his sister-in-law Joan Eighmey, his nephew Brent Eighmey, and his children Jim Eighmey and Jan Conard. He has two surviving grandchildren, Katie and Spencer Conard, and one with which he is now reunited, Aaron Eighmey. What love we can have in this world for those who have given all for our sake we hold for Jack.
Memorial funds will be accepted by the family in care of the Petersen Funeral Home for donations to the Visiting Nurses Association Hospice program Lawrence Kansas, and The Aaron Eighmey Eagle Fund, BSA Troop 709.