John Edward Bailey (78), longtime St. Maries resident, passed away on October 2, 2021, with his family at his side. He was born on August 16, 1943, in Lewistown, Mont. to John R. and Nena (Craig) Bailey. Known by most as Johnny or Wagonburner, his childhood was spent in Lewistown, Mont., moving with his family when he was 10 years old to the Potlatch area where he attended school, later moving to the Clarkia area where he lived until the 1970s.
Johnny enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1960 and was stationed out of San Diego, Calif. He enjoyed his time in the Navy and was honorably discharged in August of 1964 as an E5 Boatswain’s mate.
He was married to Kathy Norton in 1965 and they were divorced in 1978. They had one son, Roscoe “Chipper” Bailey. In 1980 he married Judy (Humphrey) Karber. At that time, he became the father figure to two others, Erik Karber and Darla Karber (Pierce) and was there for all three through all their school activities and sports. At one time everyone had a bike of some sort, both boys were racing bikes, Darla’s was a little “putterer” and then the road bike that John and Judy was on nearly every available weekend when there wasn’t a race. A motorcycle trip to Anchorage, Alaska was in 1988 just before he had his first open heart bypass surgery.
Johnny worked in the woods and mills before he started truck driving for Richard Johnson. This led to many trucking jobs and later, operating heavy equipment until 1986 when he and Judy purchased Deano’s Bakery. Here he became a baker after a few days training and had the donuts in the grease by 4:00 in the morning six days a week. In 1990 Johnny went to work at Benewah Community Hospital in the maintenance department until 2001. He went back to the woods for a while, building road for Barry Borgmann and Sam Badgett. Not one to be idle, Johnny applied for and became a rural mail carrier out of Harrison.
Johnny had brute strength and determination when it came to doing anything. His hands and back served him well over the years as he tackled various jobs like building his shop by himself, just him and his tractor. In that shop, he built the Plymouth GTX that turned out to be a replica of one from his younger years. These and numerous other endeavors such as this took their toll and his hands and back finally said “enough.” He was forced to retire permanently in 2008 and he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He put his retirement years to good use, now that he had time to continue his interest in his family history and Shoshone Indian heritage.
Johnny is survived by his wife Judy at their home in St. Maries, son and daughter in-law Roscoe “Chipper” and Melissa Bailey of Lewiston, son and daughter in-law Erik and Carol Karber and daughter and son in-law Darla and Josh Pierce all of St. Maries. Also surviving him are numerous other family members and friends.
Johnny was dedicated to watching his family grow and welcoming each new grandchild. Those rough, broken up hands of his still had the need to hold all the little ones either in play or comforting. He leaves behind grandchildren Ryan Bailey of Deary, Rachel Heitstuman (Ben) of Anatone, Wash., and grandchildren Erik (Evan) Darst of St. Maries, Cody Karber of Entiat, Wash., Brandon (Karen) Muster of St. Maries, Aaron Williams of Worley, Brandon Williams of St. Maries, Bailey Gibbons of Lewiston, and five great-grandchildren.
Deceased family members are his father, John R. Bailey and mother Nena E. (Craig) Bailey, sister Janice Burnham and husband Ralph, brothers James Bailey, Ted Bailey and sister in-law Donna Bailey. He is also preceded in death by infant grandson Brett Allen Bailey.
Johnny requests no funeral services but only that people remember him as they saw him last, with two good legs, a smile on his face and on the move. His ashes will be scattered by his family near his home in the Benewah Valley.
Please visit his online memorial at hodgefuneralhome.com.