Jim Hifner has passed away. Just writing those words is painfully heartbreaking but also has given me pause to think about what that really means. Yes, Jim L. Hifner, my dad, also known as Jimmy Leroy, or “Lover” as my sweet mother would call him, or “Big Jim” — (I think his personal favorite nickname) — or “Grandpa,” my favorite, has passed on through his earthly life and gone to be with Jesus. As God would have it, he left this world how he lived his life, always concerned for others and never about himself. On Feb. 18, he died quietly, peacefully and with no event, next to the love of his life.
He is survived by his wife and soulmate, Nella Jean Hifner, his (Darling Daughter) Kimberly Marra, grandson Bailey Marra, son-in-law Nick Marra, sister Betty Burgeis, brother Lawrence Hifner and countless other family members and many friends. He is also survived by his larger-than-life reputation, which I will now happily recall for those who haven’t had the pleasure (and sometimes ire) of knowing Big Jim Hifner.
Eighty-three robust years lived by the most stubborn, hard-working and deeply loved man cannot be crammed into a few paragraphs here, but I will do my best. He was born in Bakersfield, April 22, 1935, the youngest of six, to Ila Earl Hifner and Paul Hifner. He and his siblings, Lawrence, Alta Mae, Pauline, Joyce and Betty, were a loving and rambunctious group raised in Kern and Inyo counties.
He grew up to be a man of extreme integrity and a great provider for his family. He married his one and only love, my mother Nella, in December of 1954. He served proudly in the United States Army as a sniper, stationed in Alaska in 1957. He moved his family to Coos Bay, Ore., in the early '70s. He wanted to give me a better life. For him, that meant me growing up in a small town. Always thinking of what was best for his family. That was my dad. He was a master barbecuer and I have fond memories of him standing at the grill with a Coors in hand, while an 8-track tape of Marty Robbins played in the background. Good memories for sure.
He worked as a drywall taper working for other people early in his career, but became a general contractor in the '80s, to own his own business, Jim Hifner Drywall, an accomplishment he and his family were very proud of. He was old-school. A man of his word, his handshake was stronger than any paper contract. He often loaned money to anyone who asked, no strings attached. More than anything he loved to help people. He loved country music, a barbecued steak (rare, of course), butter pecan ice cream, taking a drive in nature to nowhere in particular, laughing with his best friend, P. Jones, hunting shooting, fishing and working on the Yribarren Ranch during the annual cattle drive.
Later in life, he loved his garden, and especially the many summers Bailey, his only grandson, would come to visit and “help.” He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, loyal friend, loving uncle and father figure to many. If you were lucky enough to be loved by him, you knew he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
His memorial service will be held at the Slice of Life building on 48771 W. Valley Blvd., in Tehachapi on Saturday, March 16 at 1 p.m. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial donations to be made to your favorite charity in Jim’s name, and to share a story and a toast to Big Jim.