James Michael “Mike” Phelps, 74, of Fort Atkinson, passed away on Monday, July 22, 2019, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison after a brief, but stubborn, battle with lung cancer and pneumonia.
Mike was born on July 10, 1945, in Moberly, Mo., to Elwood and Mary Lou (Willer) Phelps, near his childhood hometown of Salisbury, where his family’s shoe store was in business for over 70 years.
After graduating from Rockhurst College in Kansas City, he married his high school sweetheart, Marcia Shaughnessy, of Glasgow, Mo., on April 20, 1968, at St. Mary’s Church in Glasgow.
After two years drafted and deployed for the Army in Germany from 1968 to 1970, Mike began a lifelong career in accounting with Butler Manufacturing that took him and his growing family back to Missouri, to Alabama, to Pennsylvania, back to Missouri (again), and finally to Fort Atkinson, Wis., where he and Marcia have raised their three children and hosted their eight grandchildren for the last 35 years.
In Fort Atkinson, Mike was committed to his church and community, serving as a volunteer (and probably some form of accountant) for the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation Board, Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club Board, Fort Atkinson Community Dental Clinic Board, St. Joseph Catholic Church and School Finance Committee, the Knights of Columbus, and as a frequent usher at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Despite his community involvement and eventual rise to presidency at J-Star Industries of Fort Atkinson, Mike always put his family first, never missing a 5:30 family dinner or a road trip to Missouri. He spent his evenings and weekends attending his children’s myriad band concerts, wrestling matches, dance recitals, basketball games, show choir competitions and other school activities.
Mike, unsurprisingly, never slowed down in retirement, working as the business administrator at St. Joseph Catholic Church and School for nine years and volunteering at Fort HealthCare.
He spent his leisure time methodically building, deconstructing and rebuilding his perpetually unfinished HO model railroad display, working on puzzles, falling asleep to NASCAR races, helpfully “coaching” the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team from his recliner, continuing to answer “I’m thirsty” with “Hi, thirsty; I’m Dad/Grandpa,” and attending his grandchildren’s myriad activities and events.
Mike is survived by and will be deeply missed by his wife, Marcia; his brother, Larry Phelps; and his three children, Jason Phelps of Cross Plains, Melissa (Todd) Willkomm of Johnson Creek and Brian (Sarah) Phelps of Appleton; and eight grandchildren, Melinda, Melody, Ethan, Matthew, Aubrey, Micah, Penelope and Emilia.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
In lieu of flowers, memorials and donations may be made to the Guardian Angel scholarship fund at St. Joseph Catholic School in Fort Atkinson.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson.
Visitation will be held at Dunlap Memorial Home from 5 until 7 p.m. on Friday, July 26, and on Saturday at the church from 10 a.m. until the time of the service.