Local blues institution and Saturday Market staple Eagle Park Slim, né Autry McNeace, passed away at 74 last weekend, leaving behind his partner Gwen Johnson, his son Donnie McNeace, two grandchildren as well as Johnson’s nine children and 16 grandchildren. While Slim has had a history of heart failure, and earlier this summer received a wireless heart-monitoring system implant, Johnson tells EW the results for cause of death are still pending.
“It is a great loss, but it’s a great loss to the city also,” Johnson says. “Because he was so loved by everybody.”
Originally from Illinois and Colorado, Slim arrived in Eugene in 1980 and quickly became a fixture in the local music scene. “When Mount St. Helens erupted,” Johnson recalls, “he came to town.”
Johnson says family would call him “sunshine.”
“I would say that in the morning when I’d greet him,” she says. “He’d flash that big old smile, and the twinkle in his eye.”
Slim did not have insurance, and Johnson is responsible for medical fees and funeral costs. Johnson’s daughter Batina Pitts has set up a GoFundMe fundraising page to help pay for the burial, which Johnson tentatively says is set for Saturday, Aug. 27, as well as a celebration of life later at Mac’s at the Vet’s Club on Willamette Street; both are open to the public with details TBA.
Johnson ordered 1,000 “Ain’t No Time to Hate” stickers to hand out, the same stickers and code that many knew Slim to live by. “We just want to keep Slim alive, through his music and everything,” she says.
As of press time, the Eagle Park Slim GoFundMe account has raised $5,999 of the $7,000 goal.
“Eugene is so wonderful,” Johnson says of the help flooding in. “Even though he’s from Eagle Park, [Illinois], he said, ‘This is my home.’”
There will also be a tribute for Slim at 12:45 pm Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Saturday Market.
To find out more visit the GoFundMe page at bit.ly/2bMNP60.