September 5th, 2017 - November 29th, 2017
Omer Shelby passed into glory on November 29th 2017 of natural causes. He died much the way he lived, without much fuss and surrounded by people who loved him. A service celebrating his life will be held 11:00 AM Friday December 8 at St. Luke's Episcopal church, 106 Liberty St. in Weiser.
Omer was born in Cabarton Idaho on September 12, 1929, the third of the five sons of Ervin Shelby and Lottie Elvira Jenkins Shelby. He was born at home, in a cabin that is now under the Brownlee Dam. His father was shepherding at the time. His childhood was rough by current standards; it was the middle of the depression and they followed what work his father could find, living several years in a tent along the river bank off of Cove Road. He always said that ‘it was just the way it was’. He left school in eighth grade to work after his father caught Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Like his father, he shepherded sheep, logged, and did construction. He loved working on cars and bought his first model A when he was only 16. He had many good memories of the cars he brought back to life and the friends he rode around with.
In 1951, he became part of the Army’s reconstruction of Germany, initially stringing communication wire from the front observers to the main part of the force during maneuvers. The gear that was supposed to lay out the wire kept breaking however, and he ‘tinkered’ with it to make it work better. When the general noticed that his crew was getting so much more done, Omer ended up with a commendation and a transfer to the general’s staff. He built the Army’s first field kitchen capable of cooking while under way. This suited his ability to ‘tinker’ and repurpose the things he had available.
He returned home in 1954 and was part of the construction crew of Brownlee dam and several highways. He enjoyed pointing to a piece of power line or a switchback and tell stories of their construction. He worked at the Cambridge sawmill until its closure in 1970. After a few months in which he decided it would be a good idea to build a motorcycle in the living room, he started working for Ore-Ida Foods as a maintenance mechanic. Never one to resist the opportunity to improve a piece of machinery, he continued to ‘tinker’ there as well. He was awarded a trip to Pittsburgh to meet the chairman of the board after one of his improvements ended up saving the company over a million dollars a year. In 1985, he was injured at work. His recovery required numerous skin grafts, the removal of one foot, 45 days in the hospital and 8 months off, but he returned to work as soon as he could. He retired from Ore Idaho after 25 years of service in 1995.
He was an outdoorsman at heart, and loved camping, hunting and fishing with his family, and with the Good Sam, Idaho Mountain Blue Birds, and AA camping clubs. He also loved raising a garden, tending to his lawn and fruit trees, and putting up his own produce. He was a regular at the Weiser Senior Center and served one term on the Board of Directors. He was a regular at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Weiser.
Omer married the former Beverly Risley and in 25 years of marriage, raised four boys; Irvin Allen, Robert Earl, Omer James Junior and Mark Wayne. In 1970 he married the former (Anna) Kareen Bowman and helped raise two more children, Sheryll Baumann and Shawna Eddy Kissell. They were married for 35 years, until her death in 2006. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Harley, Bill and Ben. He is survived by his brother, Tom and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.