James L. Jeffries, Jr., 81, a former Conrail supervisor and senior citizen power weight lifter who was a World War II and Korean War veteran, died Thursday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio Hospital.
Mr. Jeffries was a man strong in body and spirit who wore many hats in life, his son, George, said. Mr. Jeffries took up powerlifting at age 58, dead-lifting 500 pounds when he was 73, according to his son.
"He was always just a strong kind of guy," the younger Mr. Jeffries said.
Until he hurt his shoulder, he was trying for a world record for his age group. "If it wasn't for his injuries, he probably would've got up to it," the son said.
He was active at Ameriflex Gym and Fitness Center in Maumee and enjoyed his many friends and fellow powerlifters, including Sedric Joplin.
Mr. Jeffries retired in 1991 from his railroad career, which began with the New York Central System many years ago.
"He had a lot of guys working underneath him," the younger Mr. Jeffries said.
"Even three or four years after he retired, we'd get calls from the guys who worked for him, asking what they should do about this, or do about that. They respected and loved him so well, they knew he would know exactly what to do if someone else didn't."
Mr. Jeffries started looking out for people when he was in the seventh grade.
As the oldest of 13 children, he was forced to quit school to help support his family, working with his father in the local coal mine near their home in Stewartsville, W.Va.
He eventually joined the Army and was awarded Purple Hearts for his service in World War II and the Korean War.
"He didn't talk about the war," the younger Mr. Jeffries said. "On his back, you could see where he had bullet holes and shrapnel wounds."
Mr. Jeffries loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He and Maryann, his third wife of more than 21 years, met in 1985 at a restaurant where she worked in Dunkirk, N.Y., when he was 59 and working for Conrail.
"He promised me a ride on his motorcycle," she said. "We had a Susan B. Anthony dollar between us. We paid to get off the freeway and took the back roads home. That was our first date. He's been a great man ever since."
Surviving are his wife, Maryann; sons, James L. Jeffries III and George Richard Jeffries; daughter, Katrina "Kittie" Buck; brother, Harry Jeffries; sisters, Mary Kisner, Mable Watkins, Luella Rizer, Thelma DiDominica, Wilma Shifflet, and Helen Kitchen, and eight grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Walter Funeral Home. Burial will be in Point Marion, Pa.