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Connie Meyers never wanted a helping hand.
The 98-year-old Kamloops Heritage Railway (KHR) machinist gladly offered his assistance to anyone who sought it, but always insisted he could do his own work.
“You [could] say he was a bit stubborn, but he was definitely his own man,” said Kamloops Heritage Railway president Glen Wideman.
Fellow KHR volunteer Arthur Styles recalled that if Meyers were to trip and fall and someone offered to help him up, he’d chase that person away.
Meyers was one of the first members of the Kamloops Heritage Railway, dedicating 18 years of his life to the KHR until he passed away on July 2, two years shy of becoming a centenarian.
Bob Cheramy, another colleague of Meyers’, said in the last few years, Meyers had a hard time walking, used a crutch and had difficulty climbing stairs in the shop.
This prompted his fellow volunteers to keep an eye on him by calling or driving by his home to make sure he was all right.
On June 28, Wideman said Meyers phoned and wasn’t feeling well.
Meyers, a man known to never ask for help, was in need.
Cheramy and another volunteer went to check on him at his North Kamloops home.
Cheramy said Meyers had a hard time speaking, but they understood he was concerned about his property taxes. He asked the pair to take him to pay his taxes and then to the hospital.
They took him to the hospital first and told him they’d take his taxes over to city hall.
As they crossed Overlanders Bridge from Meyers’ home to the hospital, Meyers told them something.
“He was talking a little bit and trying to make us understand something and the thing that we both heard as we’re crossing the bridge — and he’s looking at the water — he looked at me and he smiled a little bit and he said, ‘I’m waiting to die,’” Cheramy said.
The two men tried to make light of the comment, telling Meyers he had plenty of gas left in the tank and that the doctors would make sure he felt better.
“I’m not sure whether he believed us — he probably didn’t — but, nonetheless, those were the last words I clearly heard him say,” Cheramy said.
“He was one of a kind,” said Styles, who assisted with many of the funeral arrangements.
Wideman said Meyers showed him around when he first volunteered at KHR.
He said Meyers’ claim to fame was making bolts required for the train engines, noting Meyers would buy and cut the steel himself.
“Well, that’s his claim to fame. I don’t know if that’s really true, but that’s what he said,” Wideman said.
Meyers was born on March 29, 1914, delivered by his grandmother on the shores of Meyers Lake in Saskatchewan, the eldest of 10 siblings.
He helped build the Alaska Highway from 1942 to 1949 and, in 1953, bought a lot in Kamloops for $300, on which he built the house that remained his home until his death.
Cheramy said when he first met Meyers back in 2000, he didn’t think he looked his age.
“I didn’t realize how old he was at that time because you could tell he was an elderly gentleman, but I didn’t think he was as old as he was.”
Meyers certainly didn’t act his age, with Wideman pointing out his social life was livelier than most of the volunteers at KHR.
Meyers was a member of the Kamloops Royal Canadian Legion, the Kamloops Fish and Game Association and the Moose Lodge.
He also belonged to the Kamloops chapter of the Vintage Car Club and drove around town in a 1973 Cadillac, on which he constantly did his own repairs.
He was also a member of the Barnhartvale Dance Club, which met on Sundays.
Wideman said Meyers had a “bum” leg he injured while playing baseball. It was an injury that eventually put an end to his dancing days.
“He faithfully went to that dance group every Sunday when he was around but, in the later years, he said he still went to them, but he didn’t dance much,” Wideman said.
Over the years, Meyers donated many items to the KHR, including two lathe machines and a three-foot working model of a tractor.
Wideman said Meyers’ specialty at KHR was operating the drill press — and he was a dedicated volunteer in the backshop.
“Volunteers meet there every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and there wasn’t too many days that he missed,” Wideman said.