James Powell Ryder

James Powell Ryder

Aug. 22, 1933 – May 27, 2018

James Powell Ryder, 84, died on May 27, 2018 at his home in Homer, Alaska.

James was born in Syracuse, Kansas on Aug. 22, 1933. He was the son of Dorsey Powell Ryder and Verna Jeanette Woods. His sisters were Jean and Gail. His brothers were Harry, Frank, and Bob. The only survivor is Robert Ryder of Utah.

He married Gertrude Smilhula in September 1954 upon returning to California after three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He spent 15 months as a combat Marine in Korea where he earned the purple heart and several military ribbons. He divorced in July 1962, and he married Merilyn Hirsch on Aug. 15, 1962 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He was the legal father of eight sons and four daughters, 20 grandchildren, and was a great-grandfather. His eight sons were Michael, Elton, Christopher, James, Gregory, Paul, Robert and Ronald. His four daughters include Melinda, twins Dora and Doris and Sherilyn.

He arrived in Alaska in January 1970 and was hired by an oil company two days later. Jim was an exceptionally talented man who was able to operate and repair heavy equipment, huge generators, as well as an expert welder; concrete work, plumbing, electrical work and carpentry.

He was partner-owner of J &M Welding and Excavation in Palmer and the Homer area from 1971 to 2004. He was also a licensed real estate agent, a correctional officer, and universal heavy equipment operator and mechanic. He was in great demand during the winter months for thawing water and sewer lines for individuals and businesses from Sheep Mountain, Sutton, Palmer, Wasilla, Willow, etc.

During one bitter winter, a woman kept calling for him though other pipe thawers were closer to her home. Finally, Merilyn asked why this woman only wanted Jim. The woman said, “Because he is the only one who hasn’t burnt down any houses!”

He deeply loved his family and was responsible for helping raise his granddaughters Ronda and Elaina after their father died when they were only 6 and 18 months old. Their mother could not raise them and died when they were in grade school.

Besides working as a finish blader operator in Nevada and Montana, he was interested in gold mining, hunting, and fishing. He loved his cows as well as other animals, including dogs and horses. He often gave $100-dollar bills to people in need even when he didn’t have much money himself.

He and son-in-law Aaron spent several years hauling gravel to upgrade the roads in the Russian villages at the end of East End Road during 1992-1995. He also worked for the Homer Food Bank for eight years.

In Las Vegas, Nevada he worked for Longley Construction as well as doing concrete patios and walls during the weekends. One customer was Sally Rand known for her fan dancing. The planter he made for the first new home when he was married in 1962 is still in great condition though other parts of the home on Randall Drive have been changed. He was very interested in medicine, and had hoped to become a doctor. That did not happen, but he sewed up himself as well as animals and even children.

Jim had a very strong work ethic, and will be remembered by many people, past and present.

Arrangements made by Homer Funeral Home &Cremation services. Please visit or sign his online guestbook at AlaskanFuneral.com.