Jim Search Remembered for Big Heart

Jim, far right, with his wife Heather and two children, Ian and Ashley. Photos provided by Wendi Melcher

The loss of one of Sweet Home’s own could be felt as hundreds, maybe even a thousand, gathered Sunday to say goodbye to James “Jim” Boyd Search, who graduated from Lebanon High.

Grieving hearts filled the sanctuary, overflowed into the lobby and spilled outside at Sweet Home Community Chapel on April 21. Only as friends shared memories about Jim could the palpable sorrow be cut through with stories that made the crowd laugh.

In uniform for LCSO Search and Rescue

Jim was born March 2, 1966, in Klamath Falls and made a life for his wife, Heather, and two children, Ian and Ashley, in Linn County as he developed a career with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. Starting early as a man who gave his life for others, Jim started volunteering for Search and Rescue (SAR) as a teen. He later joined LCSO as a reserve deputy and worked his way up to sergeant in the civil division until his retirement in 2016. Shortly after, he went to work for Advanced Mechanical Inc. in Brownsville.

Friend Tim Mueller could recall the first time he worked with “this tall, skinny, goofy kid” back in the 1980s when the two were part of a search and rescue mission up above Quartzville, and how for the next 38-some years their friendship developed into a bond that would bring Mueller to tears upon hearing his good friend had died.

“He was one of those kinds of guys that everybody was just glad to see because you knew that your day was going to be better when he would show up,” he said. “He was a light, I guess would be a good way to put it, because he would light up the darkness anywhere he went.”

Mueller retrieved memories he had with Jim: their hunting trips, years of search and rescue missions, the “bickering like a married couple,” pranks, raising kids together, and the one time in 40 years that Jim got mad because Mueller dumped out his Mountain Dew.

For those who never had a chance to meet Jim, they missed out, Mueller said. It was a statement well-appreciated as story after story revealed the kind of man Jim was and made one re-think what really matters in life.

During the service, friend Scott Melcher shared a sentiment that was common among most who knew Jim.

“I was Jim’s friend,” Melcher said. “I say that because, like all of us here today, that is how he made us feel. In Jim’s words, ‘You look like you could use a hug.’”

And like many before him, Melcher praised Jim for his willingness to offer a helping hand.

“I knew him as a friend driven by a desire to always be serving others,” said Mark McCartin, pastor at the chapel.

McCartin – referred to as “Preacher” by Jim – said most of their conversations together were brief, usually in the church lobby or parking lot, and maybe once at the Oregon Jamboree where he “confessed all his sins in the beer garden.”

They would talk about things like Jesus, politics and the Second Amendment, but perhaps the most serious conversation they had revolved around a subject Jim strongly believed in: the existence of bigfoot.

“He had such good humor, such an easy smile, such a cheerful disposition,” McCartin said. “He always was a light when I saw him.”

Friend Steve Schilling recalled camping and fishing trips with Jim, and expressed gratitude for having Jim close by on a daily basis as a friend who was always available to talk or to help.

“It didn’t really matter what he was doing; he was always giving back,” Schilling said. “Jim loved everybody, and everybody loved Jim. He did everything he could to serve everyone by just figuring out a way to get it done.”

The 58-year-old’s son, Ian Search, called his dad his “first superhero” and spoke from the heart about a man who, simply put, “was the best.”

Search said his family couldn’t go anywhere in the Pacific Northwest without Jim running into someone he knew. He pondered how his dad could know so many people and remember them all, and Search came to one conclusion.

“The simple truth is that his heart was that big.”

He shared what so many before and after him did, stories of a man who could be called upon day or night.

Tim Mueller, left, with Jim Search during a black powder shoot outing.

“Somehow he just always had whatever you needed – whether it was a big bear hug, the right words to say, or even just a napkin so you could wipe off your glasses – he was always there,” Search said. “He never asked for thanks, but he gave everything he had.”

When Jim walked into a room, he filled it, Mueller said.

“The world is gonna be a less happy place without that man on it. Nothing ever got him down,” Mueller said. “He was always so upbeat, even with something that he should’ve been really mad about. He’d be, ‘Eh, it’ll buff out, it’ll be fine.’”

Nick Tyler agreed “this is a major loss to our community,” and Wendi Melcher said the community is losing a leader, a role model and a friend.

“He changed people,” she said. “It was always about the good in people. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from or anything. He always left you feeling better and was always positive. He made a huge impact on people.”

Scott Melcher, recalled the “adventures and memories” he and Jim compiled together with their wives over the course of their friendship, including an Alaskan bigfoot cruise and Jim’s “emergency kit” that held a “wee” bottle of Jameson whiskey, which Jim referred to as his ‘vitamin J.’

“To say that we will miss Jim is an extreme understatement,” Melcher said. “Like Jesus said to the apostles when he appeared before them after being raised from the dead, ‘You have seen and you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen but believe.’

“I believe Jim is with his friend Jesus in heaven. I believe Jim has found his bigfoot. And I believe he is up on the vibe deck with his vitamin J making new friends and waiting for us to join him.”

Dressed as Santa during a Shop with a Cop event.

As can be gathered, Jim was remembered for his volunteer work. According to friends, he was a leader for the Linn-Benton Young Marines and worked with kids in SAR. He helped at Oregon Jamboree, sporting events and at his church, arrived as Santa for Shop with a Cop, held firearm safety and women’s self defense classes, and even donned a dress once or twice (or three times) to raise money for community programs.

“They would do these fundraiser things where these guys with beards would dress up like women and go out and do this song and dance,” Mueller explained. “It brought a ton of money in because everybody was just dying laughing at it.”

Schilling said the list is “endless” what Jim would do to help out somewhere.

“Jim just gave and gave and gave,” he said.
In the three decades Jim worked with at LCSO and SAR, he saw “some pretty bad things,” Search said.

“He knew just how bad the world can be, and he would protect us from it the best he could, but the reality is that things aren’t always great out there,” he went on. “But he found a way somehow, some way, to just make things a little bit better for someone when he could.”

And with that, Search asked those gathered at the service to “just try and do a little good.”

“Reach out and just do something good, because in my mind that’s the best way to remember Jim and that’s what he would want.”

Jim (center) poses with his friend’s boys, Colton and Tyler Schilling, as they celebrated college graduation. Photos provided by Wendi Melcher

Jim died on Sunday, April 14, when he was electrocuted while operating a boom lift near high-voltage power lines.

“It is a huge loss,” Mueller said. “We just cannot get our head wrapped around it. How can we never see that lovable goofball ever again? Well, we will some day, but in the meantime we’re stuck here without him.”

According to Mueller, he and his best friend lived by movie quotes, so Mueller found it fitting to close his remarks at the service with a Lonesome Dove quote.

“‘Cheerful in all weather. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.’ That was Jim.”