James Stanley Fyfe, 80, died on October 22, 2019, at the Aspirus Wausau Hospital after a lengthy battle with cancer. James, best known as Chugger to family and friends alike, was born on December 14, 1938 in Ontonagon, Michigan to the late James Herbert Fyfe and Beatrice Ann (Fischer) Fyfe.
One of his most closely guarded secrets was how he came by the name “Chugger.” There are several versions to this story, none of which he would confirm or deny. One tale was a childhood friend nicknamed him Chugger, saying he chugged like the switch engine at the paper mill when he ran. Another version of events was his mother jokingly renamed him after chugging down his baby bottles. None of the stories ever included the drinking of beer. No matter the origin, the name Chugger was the one he answered to, many friends never knowing his given name.
Chugger was a 1957 graduate of the Ontonagon High School, and an avid supporter of local sports. After graduation, Chugger attended Northern Michigan University for two years before serving two years in the Army stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
Chugger ventured from home for a few years to work in Las Vegas and Minneapolis, but shortly returned home to his native Ontonagon. He worked briefly for the paper mill, but ultimately made his career transporting and working with the clients at Copper Country Mental Health for over thirty years. He was also responsible for the smooth operation of the Ontonagon Township Park and Campground for over four decades. For fun, he ran his own small business selling sports trophies and ribbons.
Chugger was involved with his community and volunteered as a member of the Jay-Cees, the Ontonagon Men’s Association, and Ontonagon Booster Club, among others. He also donated time to the Ontonagon Area Schools; helping build the new football field and track at the high school in the 1980s, attending most school sporting events, and helping out whenever needed. In 1988 he was awarded the Frank Manley Award recognizing his outstanding volunteer contributions to the Ontonagon Community. He was also a long-time member of the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School Board and Copper Country Mental Health Board.
Chugger was most passionate about routing for his beloved Green Bay Packers. Packer season was year-round, and trips to Lambeau Field were eagerly planned. He enjoyed watching football, playing golf, and whiling away the afternoon playing cards with friends. He was extremely outgoing, cheerful and enjoyed meeting new people, making many life-long friends with frequent visitors to the campground, staunch sports fans, or fellow travelers.
Chugger was preceded in death by his parents, James and Beatrice Fyfe. He is survived by his brother Douglas (Mary) Fyfe of Oak Harbor, Washington, nephews Robert Fyfe and James Fyfe, great-nephews Brandon Fyfe and Jaeger Fyfe, all from Washington state, as well as numerous cousins and their families.
Funeral services will be officiated by Father Michael Jacobus from Holy Family Catholic Church in Ontonagon, Michigan. Visitation will be held at Holy Family Catholic Church on Monday, October 28, 2019, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. A luncheon will follow the Mass service in the Holy Family Catholic Church basement.
Memorial donations can be made in James Fyfe’s name to the Ontonagon Area Scholarship Foundation, PO Box 92, Ontonagon, MI 49953.
Cane Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements
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