James Francis McKinley

James Francis McKinley

MADISON – James Francis McKinley, age 47 passed away on Friday, June 29, 2012 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim was born on July 2, 1964 in Fulton, New York, the son of Terri Winans and Ronald F. McKinley. Spending most of his life in Madison, he attended Lapham grade school and graduated from Lafollette High School’s Special Education program in 1985 and was part of the first graduating class with special needs integrated into the Madison Public School District. Jim began his career with the Dane County Recycling Program in 1986, where he was a pioneer in the earliest work assistance program for people with developmental disabilities through Community Work Services, Inc., an agency that works in partnership with employers to make a positive difference in the lives of people they support by helping them find and keep meaningful community jobs. Over 26 years on his regular recycling route, Jim taught everyone he interacted with a few basic signs; he communicated mostly using sign language and anyone who knew Jim quickly learned the sign for “pop”, “later”, and “happy”. He was known for being upbeat and giving hugs, his smile and clapping to show his enthusiasm and excitement and for a job well done. He made a lasting impression! Jim also held a position with The City of Madison Fire Department Fire Station #1 for 25 years, the city’s largest and busiest firehouse. There he was well known for convincing more than one person at the station to buy him his “pop” during their shifts – he had a way of getting what he wanted. He is remembered for that, for making his famous fire engine siren sound and the silly games he would play with them. The firehouse advocated keeping Jim at Ladder #1 even during mobility challenges and they graciously made him a permanent part of their crew!

Jim participated in Special Olympics Wisconsin for several years competing as a Special Olympics Athlete in different sports and brought home medals for his accomplishments. He was a boy scout as a young boy and never missed the circus or a fireworks display growing up – he loved clowns, birthdays, parties and family celebrations and always looked forward to Christmas and Santa. He had numerous hobbies from boating and swimming to bowling and music. At the East YMCA he was famous for his handstands and summersaults in the pool, always coming up for air clapping. He took pleasure in friends drawing pictures of his favorite things in his notebooks, an activity his dad began when he was young. Over the years Jim became known for carrying his stack of notebooks or cardboard drawings and his radio. Above most things though, he enjoyed his “pop”. His magnetic personality, his unforgettable smile, and his kind, warm and compassionate heart made him easily likeable and he was well recognized within the community. His indulgences were the simple things in life and he taught everyone he ever touched some very valuable life lessons.

Jim is survived by his biggest advocate – his mom, Terri Winans (Wayne); dad, Ronald Francis McKinley (Judy); brother, Philip McKinley (Sharon); sister, Tara McKinley; nephew, Jack and niece, Brielle. Jim’s family also considered his cousins, Holly Brown, Tonia Lohmiller (Anthony Lohmiller and Alex Lohmiller), to be his extended siblings as well as his step-brother Jerry Steinhauer (Sandy).

A service in celebration of Jim’s life will be held at 11 a.m., Friday, July 6, at LAKE EDGE LUTHERAN CHURCH, 4032 Monona Drive., with Rev. Stephen Marsh officiating. Friends and relatives are welcome from 9 a.m. until the hour of services. Interment will follow the service at Lake Edge Lutheran Church Memorial Garden. The family would also be grateful for your presence at a luncheon and celebration provided by VFW Post 7591, 301 Cottage Grove Road, following all services. Jim brought a great deal of joy and inspired scores of people throughout his life. The family is pleased to support Community Work Services, Inc. who believes that all people have value and that supporting individuals with disabilities to actively participate in all aspects of community life results in a more diverse, compassionate and stronger community for everyone. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Community Work Services, Inc., 3240 University Avenue, Suite #5, Madison, Wisconsin 53705.

The family is forever thankful to Jim’s support team and network. Their love and support was most instrumental to his development, his accomplishments and the impact he made in this community. They are all extraordinary people and their efforts invaluable.