James O. “Jim” Naylor, Jr., was born on July 12, 1944, in the old Clinton General Hospital to James O. Naylor, Sr., and Ruth “Elnora” (Shoemaker) Naylor. He had two brothers, Mark Christopher and Gregory Lynn, who lived only a few hours after birth. Elnora passed away in 1961 at the age of 38, leaving Jim with many duties and responsibilities at home and on the farm when his dad was working out of town. Jim graduated from Lowry City High School in 1962 and worked at Goodrich Funeral Home, Hart’s Motel and Café, and Blue Ridge Animal Clinic. Jim served his country honorably in the U. S. Army from 1965 to 1967 where he was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1964, he began operating Hart’s Café in Lowry City, and in 1968 he purchased and operated the Commercial Hotel and Café in Osceola.
In January 1969, Jim was appointed to the Board of Directors of Sac-Osage Hospital where he served until April 2004. His 35 years of service on the Board included 27 years as Board Chairman. Jim was a staunch supporter of rural health care and in 1997 was recognized by the Missouri Hospital Association as Missouri Hospital Trustee of the Year.
Jim began his 30 year career as the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk and Ex Officio Recorder of Deeds in March 1971. On November 25, 1971, Jim was united in marriage to Norma Jean “Jeanie” (Scott) Naylor in the parlor of the Commercial Hotel. Jim often recalled fondly his early infatuation and pursuit of Jeanie’s affections. Together, they raised three daughters—Jennifer Lynne, Jana Celeste and Jayne Caroline. Jim was a devoted husband and father who instilled in his girls Christian faith, pursuit of education, independence and the importance of family and community. Jim and Jeanie operated the Commercial Hotel and Café and the Iconium Store for many years.
Sharing a love of children, Jim and Jeanie realized the need for quality, state licensed child care in the area. In 1989, they constructed and opened Clearview Daycare and Preschool. Jim could be found at the daycare early each morning preparing home cooked meals for the day. The children who attended daycare always held a special place in Jim’s heart.
Jim and Jeanie both loved to cook, as long as they were in separate kitchens, and shared that love with their girls. Following Jeanie’s retirement in 2000, they opened the Baer House in the former home of Stevia Baer, just across the street from their own home. The Baer House was a dinner house, serving family style meals for special occasions. Jeanie was the head cook, with Jim providing the entertainment, as he loved visiting and sharing his stories with guests. All who worked at the Baer House were considered family.
Upon his retirement from the courthouse in 2001, Jim was recognized by the Missouri Supreme Court for 30 years of dedicated service and significant contributions to the administration of justice. Jim was always known to give freely of himself in helping others solve their problems. He assisted those in need without hesitation whenever called upon, not only in his professional but also in his personal life.
One of Jim’s greatest loves was farming. As a young man, he helped his dad on the family farm and continued his own farming operation throughout his life. He shared his love of farming with his family who assisted him in his operations. He often told the story of how Jayne totaled her first vehicle at the age of 6 while driving in the field so he could put out hay for his cattle. Following his retirement, Jim operated the George Ranch with the help of his grandsons, Gerrit and Gregory.
Jim took seriously his devotion to God, family and community. He often recalled the story of his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Savior at a young age while attending a revival at Shady Grove. Jim had a servant’s heart as evidenced by his participation in many community boards including not only Sac-Osage Hospital but also Rotary and Optimist Clubs, the Osceola Park Board, West Central Community Action Agency, Osceola Community Church and 4-H (for which he received a “Friend of 4-H” Award). In recognition of his contributions to the local community, Jim was recognized as Osceola Citizen of the year in 2004 by the American Legion.
Jim was well known for his story telling and his immense knowledge of local history and genealogy. He never knew a stranger. To his grandchildren, he was “Poppy”; and his grandchildren were his pride and joy. He would often pick them up at daycare early and take them with him to the farm. He loved teaching them and spending time with them. Even in his later years, he was known to get down on the floor to play with great granddaughter, Olivia. Poppy so loved having fun with his grandkids.
Jeanie passed away on August 9, 2019. She was the love of Jim’s life; and her loss was one from which Jim had not recovered. He often commented about his loneliness and the void left by her passing. Jim was also preceded in death by his parents, Jim and Elnora Naylor; and brother, Gregory Lynn Naylor. He is survived by daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Jon Swope of Rogersville, Missouri; daughter, Jana, and her husband, Scott Witt of El Dorado Springs, Missouri; and daughter, Jayne Hankins of Osceola, Missouri; grandchildren, Lindsey Buehler, Katie Buehler, Taylor Austin, Tanner Witt, Tilar Witt, Gerrit Brouwer, Gregory Brouwer and Emma Hankins; grandson-in-law, Dayton Austin; great granddaughter, Olivia Ruth Austin; brother, Mark Naylor and his wife, Cindy of Lowry City, Missouri; and numerous friends and family members.