‘True local’ and busy volunteer dies at 85
EAGLE – In his retirement years, Jim Nimon just seemed to be everywhere.He often drove the senior citizen van. He served tirelessly for many terms on the Greater Eagle Fire District’s board of directors. A native of Eagle, he had a passionate interest in local history, and, for many years, served as president of the Eagle County Historical Society. That interest made him part of a decade-long effort that eventually resulted in the creation of an Eagle County Historical Museum at Chambers Park in Eagle. Nimon donated hundreds of hours of work to that museum. He could also be found working seasonally at the Eagle Visitor’s Center, giving strangers directions to the local attractions.Nimon, 85, died on Nov. 24, in Glenwood Springs, following a lengthy illness. A memorial service was held last Sunday.True localNimon was something of a rarity in this valley: he was a true native, born Aug. 26, 1919, in a log house about three miles east of Eagle. His father, George, came from a line of Leadville settlers, and his mother, Minnie, was part of the Shrupp family that homesteaded on Conger Mesa, near McCoy.The Nimon family moved into town in 1924, and Jim attended local schools. He graduated from Eagle High School in 1937. There were 15 students in his class, and a total of 50 students in the entire school.
Following graduation, Nimon accepted part-time work with the State Highway Department, doing roadwork on the state line near Baggs, Wyo. In 1939, he worked a summer job as a night watchman for highway construction work on Battle Mountain. The temporary job taught him surveying and engineering skills that evolved into a life-long career.In 1941, he joined the Army, serving in the 45th Field Artillery. That was the start of a 21-year period in his life that was the only time he did not live in Eagle.Nimon’s surveying skills figured prominently into his Army service. His separation papers from the Army credit him for supervising seven men on survey operations to locate enemy observation posts and gun positions. Through survey methods, he coordinated the fire of three batteries and a cannon company, whose mission was to destroy enemy positions.Leaky campersOnce out of the Army, Nimon studied engineering through a correspondence course. He eventually became one of the last engineers in the State Highway Department to obtain a residency position, without a college education.Jim and his wife-to-be, Ardyth, met in Denver, through his cousin. “I knew I would marry him the first time I met him,” his widow says. And marry they did, on Jan. 31, 1947. By 1949, he was back at the State Highway Department. The Nimons lived in Aurora for 20 years, where they raised their children, Alan and Patra, who is better known as “Patty.”Patty carries fond memories of family camping trips, she says. Her father enjoyed camping, fishing and hunting. Working with a frugal budget, he and a neighbor built their own campers.
Weekends were a time to pack up the family, and head to the mountains. Yeoman Park, Fulford, and Sylvan Lake were among the favored camping sites, Patty says. “I remember one Labor Day camping trip when we decided to camp out one more time. It snowed eight inches during the night,” she says. “The camper was made of wood and metal. There was water dripping all over us.” Jim and son Alan particularly enjoyed hunting trips together, she adds. Nimon also especially enjoyed spending time with friends Don Webb, Joe Walters and Gordon Kashner.Basement artifactsWhen a resident engineer position came open at the Highway Department’s Eagle office in 1969, Jim and Ardyth packed up and headed back to Jim’s hometown. Between his return to Eagle and his retirement in 1979, Interstate 70 was punched through, from Eagle to Vail.”Retirement” was not a time of rest for Nimon. He took another engineering job, working for Eagle County for 15 years. All the while, his volunteer workload continued to increase. He also served several terms on the Eagle Fire Protection District Board.”He really, really cared about the fire district. He was an awesome president,” Greater Eagle Fire Chief Jon Asper says. Nimon is remembered as a man who paid close attention and did some “friendly griping” about details, such as the electric bills. However, he was willing and ready to commit to financing the big-ticket items, such as new fire trucks, Asper says.
Exhibiting an engineer’s meticulous ways, he made a habit of keeping journals and notebooks, recording historical data, and facts of his own life.Jim’s interest in local history manifested itself with some pack-rat tendencies. He saved everything, with an eye on its future historical value. Ardyth says the Nimon basement has at times been stuffed with Jim’s “artifacts.” He could often be found at the Eagle Library, using the microfilm reader to look through old newspapers. He volunteered hundreds of hours indexing old newspaper articles for reference by future historians.Accolades roll in Nimon’s good deeds did not go unnoticed. In 1993, he was named the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce’s citizen of the year. He and Ardyth served as grand marshals for the Flight Days parade that year.A few years ago, Jim was honored by the Eagle Valley Library District and the Historical Society for his years of service.In recent years, advancing illness forced Nimon to resign from his many volunteer jobs. He spent the last two years in nursing homes in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. His wife and daughter were frequent visitors.”Dad and I became especially close during the last two years. We laughed and cried together, and I had the privilege of praying with him,” Patty says. “I just really feel I’m going to see him in Heaven,” says Patty.Jim Nimon’s son, Alan, and a sister, Dorothy, preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, Ardyth, of Eagle; daughter Patra “Patty” Wardlaw of Paonia; brothers Bill Nimon of Pueblo, and Wayne Nimon of Morrison; and sisters Georgia Filter of Edwards and Gertrude Gloshen of Phoenix, Ariz.Vail, Colorado