James R. Atkinson

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James R. Atkinson, 95 of Prairie du Chien, and Mesa, Ariz., passed away at home on  April 18, as a result of congestive heart failure. 


Jim was born on Feb. 16, 1922, to John and Myrtle Atkinson in Crawford County, Wisconsin, one of six children. 


In 1942, a few months after World War II began he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After basic training, he was assigned to the Quartermaster Division in the Aleutian Theatre where he worked on the construction of the Alcan Highway in Alaska. It was there that he fell in love with big trucks and heavy equipment. Little did he know this would shape his career forever. 


He was fortunate to be able to return to tour this area in 2001, on a three week trip that took him to the exact sights where soldiers had shoveled by hand. At the end of this assignment, he was assigned to the Signal Corp 3138th Battalion and shipped to Europe for the invasion of Normandy landing on Omaha Beach two days after. He was responsible for transportation of commanding officers from field posts to the front lines and back and also as a message carrier. While fighting was at its peak, he was able to search out his brother, John, who was serving with the field artillery. Jim found John’s empty bunk in the middle of the night and crawled in to sleep surprising John the next day when he returned from the field. 


Upon Jim’s honorable discharge from the Army in November of 1945, he began his career with the Crawford County Highway Department. He loved operating machinery, road building, maintenance, and was subsequently elected Crawford County Highway Commissioner in 1972. He remained in that position until his retirement on March 1, 1989. 


During his tenure, he served on the State Highway Committee for Safety and Maintenance, served as Crawford County Highway Safety Coordinator, was a member of the County Hazardous Waste and Material Committee, and was President and Secretary of the District 5 County Commissioners. He was credited with many changes and improvements in county roads and bridges and worked closely with State Engineers on plans for Crawford County. He had tremendous respect for all department employees and received their respect in return.


On June 18, 1949, he married Mary Curtis in the Congregational Church in Steuben. They made their home in Steuben for the next 25 years with their two daughters, Jane and Penny. Jim was a quiet, gentle man, a proud and compassionate husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather who was never known to raise his voice. Two highlights from Jim’s life were his trips to Washington, D.C. In May, 2004, he and Mary traveled to the National World War II Dedication Ceremony, and in September 2010, Jim, Jane and Penny were participants in the Freedom Honor Flight.


Jim was Past Commander of the Seeley-Onstine American Legion Post for which he was honored in 2015, for Charter Membership of over 70 years. He was also a member of the Boscobel VFW. He was Past Master Mason of the Masonic Lodge 304 in Wauzeka, later Lodge 8 in Prairie du Chien. He was a 32nd Degree Mason of the Scottish Rites of Madison. He was a past trustee and chairperson of the Administrative Council of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Wauzeka, Wisconsin and was a faithful member of the United Methodist Church in Prairie du Chien, and a former associate member of the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church in Arizona. Upon his retirement at 67, Jim and Mary spent 23 winters in Mesa, Ariz.


He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary; two daughters, Jane (Tim) Hazen of Platteville, and Penny (Jeff) Van Ert of Atlantic, Iowa; three grandchildren, Brad Hazen and Kelly Hazen Darlington, both of Platteville, and Grant Davis Van Ert, of Lincoln, Neb.; three great-grandchildren, Jaron and Kael Hazen and Rieley Darlington. He is also survived by one sister, Judy (Paul) Krachey, of Wauzeka; brother-in-law Fritz Curtis; and sister-in-law Maxine (Ken) Severson; and 17 nieces and nephews. 


Preceding him in death were his parents; two sisters, Ruth Curtis and Ruby Jones; two brothers, John Atkinson Jr. and LaVern Atkinson; one niece, Rose Marie Hahn; and one nephew, John Curtis.


Visitation will be held at the Prairie du Chien United Methodist Church on Friday, April 28, from 4 to 7 p.m. Masonic services will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday evening. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 29, at 11 a.m. Friends may also call on Saturday from 10 a.m. until the time of service. Cremains will be buried in the Wauzeka Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of plants and flowers, memorials may be given for a Wauzeka High School Scholarship Fund or the Prairie du Chien United Methodist Church. Pastors Barb Cook and Lynn Schreck will officiate the Memorial Service. The Garrity Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


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