Jim Wahner was a man who enjoyed taking the long way around. He never gave anyone a straight answer if a joke or an apt quotation could be used instead, and his stories were typically not the reader’s digest version! In other words, he was a man who knew how to enjoy life – someone who understood that the journey is more important than the destination. Now, after a long life, rich in hobbies, family, friends, and memories, Jim is finally “flying free.”
On October 24, 1932, Clarence and Estelle “Stell” (Luchterhand) Wahner became the proud parents of their first and only child, a son, whom they named James Wilfurd. James, or Jim as he soon came to be known, was born in his grandmother’s home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Clarence earned a living doing insulation work – at one point, he helped to construct insulation panels for the space shuttle. Stell worked in the infant department of Schuster’s & Company.
Jim attended Rufus King High School, where he participated in both the basketball and track teams. After graduation, he started in on a five-year plumbing apprenticeship. One summer evening after work, Jim was out taking in the sights in his 1929 Chevy. As he was driving, he noticed a girl he knew from high school, Milly Osmussen. Jim stopped the car right there and then, and asked Milly if she would like to go out with him that Saturday night. Milly accepted, and a few days later Jim took her to see “Gone With the Wind” at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Jim and Milly both had a great time, and it wasn’t long before romance blossomed – a romance that would last for almost 60 years.
A few years later, Jim was drafted into the Army, entering the service on June 21, 1956. He served in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Oswego, New York. Jim’s hard work and commitment earned him a specialist 4th class ranking by the end of his service. Milly, by now Mrs. Wahner, joined Jim at Fort Dix, where their first daughter, Linda, was born.
Jim and Milly built their own home in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, in 1959, moving in after Jim was discharged from the Army. Linda was not an only child for long, and soon had two younger siblings to keep her company: a sister, Tracy, and a brother, Steven James. A final member of the Wahner family was the family dog, an English springer spaniel whom Jim affectionately referred to as Chipper. Jim was a great father, very loving, who always had a joke to make his family smile.
Jim supported his family by working as a plumber. Over the course of his career, he worked for various contractors. Some of his more memorable projects included Biotron in Madison, Wisconsin, the pipes at the top of the Mitchell Park Domes, and the water pools at the Northridge Mall. He was a member of the Plumbers Local Union #75 for fifty-five years. Although Jim did his work well, his true passion in life was reserved for evenings and weekends, when he could work on his hobbies: fishing and flying. He was an avid fisherman, and an active member of the Flying Electrons Club, a club for remote-controlled airplane enthusiasts. Jim was also a dedicated Green Bay Packers fan – life, including his meals, revolved around the team’s game schedule!
Jim’s last project of a forty-five year career was installing the oxygen outlets for St. Mary’s Hospital. Milly remembers Jim coming home that afternoon and saying, “I’ve retired from plumbing. I’ve signed the papers and I’m done!” Jim was thrilled by the prospect of working on his hobbies full-time – retirement was the greatest day of his life. Jim’s golden years were filled with the “two F’s” (flying and fishing). He loved spending time at his cabin in Presque Isle, Wisconsin, and fished on Oxbow Lake as often as he could. Jim and Milly also enjoyed playing at the casinos, and traveled as far as Tunica, Mississippi, looking for the big pay-out. They spent three months of the year in Arizona, and Jim was always raring to go by December 26th – the casinos and the airfields were calling his name. Back at home, Jim started his day off every morning with a group of friends – an “old man” coffee clutch at McDonald’s.
On September 11, 2006, Jim suffered a stroke which led to some increased care needs. He moved into a nursing home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Milly moved to the town as well to be near her husband. Jim had some difficulty in communicating after the stroke, which was frustrating for him – he could no longer tell his beloved stories and jokes with the same ease.
Friendly, kind-hearted, and possessed of a wonderful sense of humor, Jim was a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a loyal friend. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by the many friends and family members he has left behind. He was one of a kind
James Wilfurd Wahner died peacefully on Sunday, April 22, 2012, at the age of 79. He was the beloved husband of Milly (nee Osmussen); the cherished father of Linda (Robert) Brunner, Tracy (Tom) Northway and Steven (Kathryn) Wahner; the loving grandfather of Tyler Brunner, Carli Brunner, Ariana Northway, Amanda Northway, Matthew Wahner, Nicholas Wahner, Benjamin Wahner and Samantha Wahner; and was further survived by other relatives and friends.
Visitation will be held on Monday, April 30, at Wisconsin Memorial park – Chapel of Chimes 13235 W. Capitol Drive Brookfield, WI, from 4 – 6:45 p.m. A funeral service will be held at 7:00 p.m. There will be a private entombment. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Wisconsin Special Olympics would be appreciated. The family has been served by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes. Please visit Jim’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can learn more about his life, share a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.