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James Fyke

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James Fyke Obituary

EUREKA - James Lowell Fyke, 77, of Eureka died Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria of a complication of multiple myeloma.

He was born June 14, 1936, in Raccoon Township, Marion County, Ill., the first son of Willis Grandville and Tina Myrtle Greenwalt Fyke. He married Karen Delane Ludwig on June 6, 1959.

Jim is survived by his wife and three daughters, Kirsten Fyke, Robin (Christopher) Robinson and Susan (Brandon) Bressner; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his siblings, Mary Ellen Yeast, Gary W. Fyke and Barbara (Marc) Holder; along with many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; one son, Matthew Lowell; one niece, Sandra Fyke; and a brother Harvey Frank Fyke, who died two weeks, two hours and 13 minutes earlier.

Jim's family moved to Peoria when he was 4 years old so his father could work at R.G. LeTourneau. Locating on Paris Ave., he and his siblings crossed Reservoir Street (now War Memorial Drive) to go to Kelly Avenue grade school in Peoria Heights, where Jim excelled. Foreshadowing his later careers, he was a dedicated crossing guard for the school. He attended Woodruff High School and his family moved to Northeast Madison Street. He was placed in the honors classes at Woodruff, played trombone in the band under the direction of Lawrence Fogelberg and was the sports editor for the high school newspaper, The Observer. In his senior year, he met and fell in love with Karen Ludwig.

At the age of 18, he was employed by Ace Ambulance of Peoria and Gene O'Connor became one of his mentors. Over the few years he worked there, he delivered 34 babies and saw the results of careless accidents. Later he worked as a security guard at St. Francis Hospital and a deputy for the Peoria County Sheriff's Department. He took the entrance exam for the Peoria Police Department and got the highest score on the written part of the test, but his short stature and bad eyesight prevented him from being hired. Unable to be a patrolman, he decided to become a chief and signed up at Michigan State University in the Police Administration school. In December of 1962, he graduated with honors and took the position of director of records and communications for the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department, a job he held until he began work at Public Administration Service as a consultant to police and fire departments. His MSU mentor, Dr. George Eastman, became his supervisor and friend. Over the next six years, Jim consulted for cities from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Johnstown, R.I. He became the chief of police of Inkster, Mich., in 1967, just before the Detroit riots, which spilled over into Inkster. In 1969, Dr. Eastman asked him to come to Kent State to continue his consulting with public agencies. Jim was working with the Kent City police, upgrading their radio communications, when the riots of 1970 broke out, which resulted in what became known as the Kent State Killings. The president of the university tapped Jim to become the Kent State University chief of police to get things straightened out, which he admirably accomplished. Jim also served in the U.S. Army Reserve for six years.

In 1970, Jim and Karen's son, Matthew, was diagnosed with leukemia, and in 1972, it was obvious that they were losing the fight. Matthew wanted to be near his grandparents, so Jim took a job as an instructor at Illinois Central College in the new police training academy. Matthew died three months after they moved to Peoria. At ICC he was instrumental in building the police administration curriculum and was a favorite instructor of hundreds who are now filling positions in police agencies around the country.

Jim ran as a Republican for the post of sheriff of Peoria County and lost, but his activity with the Republican Party resulted in his being offered the position of United States Marshal for the Central District of Illinois. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served 13 years, earning many awards for his leadership. In 1995, President Clinton replaced him with a Democrat, and Jim was officially retired. He had been very active in leadership roles at West Bluff Christian Church and was asked to substitute for a few weeks at a small church near Decatur, Harristown Christian Church. Those few weeks stretched into over 18 years. He and Karen drove 80 miles one way to church nearly every Sunday. He retired recently from that post because of poor health.

He was a member of the Woodford County Historical Society, Eureka Rotary and a lifetime member of the NRA and also had served on the Woodford County Health Department Board.

His death has been a shock to his myriad friends and family, but we all know that he is in a better place where pain is no more. A man who always lived by the Golden Rule, he was one who could see "the rainbow through the rain." He will be sorely missed, but we know that his mother is doing a jig because her two oldest sons are now with her.

Funeral services for Jim will be held on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, at noon at the Eureka Christian Church, with burial following in Olio Township Cemetery in Eureka. Visitation will be two hours prior to services at the church.

Mason Funeral Homes is assisting the family in arrangements.

Donations can be made to the Woodford County Historical Society, Eureka Christian Church or Illinois CancerCare.

Online condolences to the family may be made at masonfuneralhomes.com.

Published in Peoria Journal Star on Nov. 21, 2013
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