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Obituary Stories

Kecksburg man, 82, knew all about horsepower — and horses

Jeff Himler
| Saturday, May 26, 2018, 6:09 p.m.
James C. McClain
James C. McClain

James McClain knew all about horsepower. His calling as an adult was repairing diesel trucks for the Army and then a soft drink company.

As a teen, he made use of a more traditional form of horsepower to lend a hand at his family's Mount Joy farm.

“He was a good horseman,” said his son, Jim. “He would take one of his pap's horses into town with a set of plows and plow people's gardens for them.”

With the money he earned, he was able to buy a set of horse harnesses of his own.

Mr. McClain also rode for pleasure. Accompanied by a cousin who boarded horses, “once a year he would go up to Ridgway and go riding in the state forest,” his son said. “He always seemed to enjoy that.”

James C. McClain, 82, of Kecksburg died at his home Wednesday, May 23, 2018, after a battle with cancer. Born June 11, 1935, in Saltlick Township, he was a son of the late Emory and Irma McClain.

Mr. McClain served in the Army's 964th Engineer Company Field Maintenance unit from December 1958 to March 1960 and continued as a reservist more than two years. Posted as a diesel mechanic in Germany and at Fort Bragg, N.C., he was commended for demonstrating “versatility, energy, intelligence, loyalty and good judgment.”

When he returned to civilian life, Mr. McClain drove a coal truck and then put his mechanical skills to work servicing diesel trucks 12 years for Leonard Express and Carolina Freight and another 20 years for Pepsi-Cola, where he retired at 62.

Fitting out his garage at home with mechanic's tools, he maintained his own vehicles, including a favorite El Camino, and taught his sons to do the same.

“We had a block and tackle on the rafters,” Jim recalled. “We didn't pay mechanics. We just did it all here.”

A member of Fairview Church of God in Kecksburg, Mr. McClain enjoyed hunting and, after his retirement, made road trips to Maryland to buy produce from Amish farmers.

Accompanied by his wife and two friends, he drove to Alaska and back.

“He told me they were sitting in a restaurant and watching a mountain goat across the street,” Jim said. “You don't see that in Kecksburg.”

In addition to his parents, Mr. McClain was preceded in death by a sister, Virginia Whetsel. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Claudia; two sons, Jim B. and Randall, both of Kecksburg; four grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and five siblings.

He was interred with military rites at Westmoreland County Memorial Park.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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