George McKinley Weems

Monday, November 22, 2021

George McKinley Weems died November 8, 2021, at the age of 100, just weeks shy of his 101st birthday. He was born on January 2, 1921, one of eight children born to George Walter Weems and Luella (Pinkley) Weems.

He grew up in the hills and valleys of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Except for short stays away for work in the aviation and war manufacturing plants in Tucson, Tulsa, Illinois and military service in the army and naval reserve, he spent his entire life in Eureka Springs. He often spoke of riding his Indian motorcycle back and forth from Illinois to Eureka Springs to see his wife and growing family.

As a young husband and father, he worked in a radio shop, in refrigeration repair, and as an electrician, often being called out late at night to repair equipment in the restaurants, motels and businesses in the area. It was often said of him early on: “McKinley can fix anything.” He later went into construction work and was instrumental in preparing the sites and roads for many well-known projects in Eureka Springs and Carroll County.

As a young man working daylight to past dark and having a growing family, little time was left for hobbies and relaxation. He did enjoy playing in a Eureka Springs baseball league, flying small Piper Cub airplanes, an occasional camping trip, as well as deer and elk hunting in Colorado. He was an avid reader of books and encyclopedias.

His most unexpected job came along in 1965-66, when he took on the job of construction project engineer for the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs. He constructed the scaffolding and shaped and welded the reinforcement steel of the statue. He later played a major part in the layout and design of the Passion Play amphitheater which opened in 1968.

McKinley returned to construction work until he went to work full time for Robert Dortch at the Eureka Springs North AR Railroad repairing and maintaining the steam engine trains operating at the depot. Many times, original train parts could not be found for the vintage engines, so he would simply make them. When he retired from the railroad at the age of eighty-one, McKinley was believed to be the last active steam train engineer in the state.

He was an unassuming and humble man who had a keen technical mind and enjoyed helping friends out when they would come by his workshop needing something fixed or just simply needed advice or answers on some project they were working on. In his later years he enjoyed time with family, especially grandchildren and great grandchildren. He will be missed enormously.

McKinley was preceded in death by his beloved wife of eighty-one years, Lola; a daughter, Barbara Kelley; two sons, Donnie Weems and Howard Weems; one granddaughter, Gina Weems; and one great grandson, Brandon Snodgrass; brothers Foster, Verlin, and Cecil; sisters Agnes, Alta, Hazel, and Virginia.

He is survived by four daughters, Sandra Clark of Fort Smith; Karen Grulkey (Dave) of Eureka Springs; Diane McClelland (Larry) of Eureka Springs; and Terri Weems of Eureka Springs, as well as one son, Arlie Weems of Eureka Springs. He is also survived by twenty grandchildren and twenty-eight great grandchildren.

A Gathering of Remembrance was held on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, at 1:30 PM at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center. A private family burial service was held at the Eureka Springs Cemetery under the direction of Nelson Funeral Home in Berryville. Memorial donations may be made to Good Shepherd Humane Society, 6486 Hwy 62 E, Eureka Springs, AR 72632.