James L. Grimes didn't like to say goodbye. It was always "so long."
As he grew older, he wouldn't say he was going to die. Grimes liked to say he would be "promoted" to the next life.It was with sadness that his friends in Alpine learned Grimes passed away Sept. 13 in a Florida nursing home. He left a lasting impression on the city and some of its residents during his 15-year stay.
Before he died at age 90, Grimes sent Melanie Zimmerman $40 for an obituary to be printed in local newspapers. He was buried Saturday in Kansas where he spent much of his life.
"He deserves some kind of a tribute," Zimmerman said.
Few people outside the northern Utah County hamlet knew Grimes. His friends in Alpine won't forget him.
A bus diver and union leader in Kansas City, Grimes was on his way to retire in St. George in 1971 when he stopped at John Rowe Moyle's pioneer homestead. His second wife, Alta, was a Moyle.
Instead of heading south, the Grimeses decided to remain in Alpine to spruce up the deteriorating 1860 rock house and the crumbling rock wall and tower built in 1866 for protection against intruders.
In 1976, a bicentennial committee in Alpine received a grant to finance restoration of the Moyle property. The city bought the land and turned it into historical Moyle Park. Grimes lived in the rock house and worked as caretaker until he went to Florida in 1986 to live with a son.
Moyle Park today contains a pioneer cabin, grainery and hundreds of artifacts from Alpine's early days. Much of the work was done after Grimes left, but residents credit him for getting things started.
"The whole park would not have been possible without him," Zimmerman said.
The park became Grimes' personal homestead. He lived off the land, raising bounteous gardens and rabbits. He canned, dried and froze vegetables. His crops produced well into the winter because he kept the ground warm with straw.
Grimes, whose wife died in 1981, always had lots of visitors.
"He was my kids' adopted grandfather," said Robyn Kaelin, a neighbor. "Everybody thought he was part of their family."
Charles A. Engberson, Grimes' former LDS bishop, always took one of his children along to visit Grimes. "You always knew that whatever James said to them would be good, good principles to live by."
Grimes kept track of his friends' birthdays and special occasions, even after moving to Florida.
Kaelin's son received a card just last month after returning home from an LDS Church mission.
"I think his whole existence was remembering other people," Zimmerman said.
John Q. Adams, at 89 Alpine's oldest living native, wrote Grimes a tribute.
"He was a lovable and considerate person. He never told you about his troubles or his hard-luck stories. He gave you the sunshine of life."
So long, James L. Grimes.