Milwaukee Athletic Club valet and greeter James Jackson mattered, because he made others feel like they mattered

In memoriam

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The late, great American poet Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

James L. Jackson Jr. made people feel like family.

While serving as the parking valet and greeter at the Milwaukee Athletic Club for more than 45 years, James was an ambassador of good will and wit who made every patron and visitor feel like they mattered.

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Because he made other people feel like they mattered, James mattered. In a way, his life was a self-fulfilling prophecy. When he passed away on June 15, 2022, James left a void in the downtown Milwaukee zeitgeist that can never be filled.

When you mention James’ name to members of the Milwaukee Athletic Club, you’re likely to receive a smile.

“My man James was the first person members would see, and he always gave them a warm greeting. He was about the only person I ever met with a continual positive attitude. I worked with him for 45 years and never knew him to be angry. He had a big, huge smile all the time,” said Brad Schendel, member services director at the MAC. “Everyone loved James…men, women and kids. The unusual thing is he had a way with very few words to make everyone feel welcome. When he thought no one was around, he would listen to gospel music. Many times, they were recordings of his own gospel music. He truly lived a wonderful life. He’ll be deeply missed.”

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Haskell Noyes III, agent and vice president at Robertson Ryan & Associates in Milwaukee, joined the MAC 52 years ago. Haskell said, “Over the many years that followed, there was never a day when I saw James that he didn’t greet me with his great smile. That great fellow never had a bad day, or a day never passed without his smiles. A pillar to his extensive family and parishioners, James was loved! Within the walls of the MAC, there was never a man more loved than James Jackson.”

MAC member Jim Wozniak, who is a senior vice president and wealth manager at RBC Wealth Management, recalled, “I have known James since 1985 when I joined the MAC. On average, I saw James five days a week and to say that he was always smiling, that was the absolute truth. It’s who he was. We had this gig every day when I saw him…If it was sunny, he would say, ‘What a beautiful day! Just like I said yesterday.’ And if it was cloudy, rainy or snowy, he would say, ‘Wait ‘til tomorrow!’ He was always positive, no matter what.”

When he wasn’t lifting the spirits of MAC members and visitors, James could often be found at Jeremiah Missionary Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon, usher and van driver for more 30 years before becoming a pastor at his own church, the Crown of Victory.

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He is survived by his wife, Rosie, whom he married in 1977. His surviving family includes their daughter, Angela Hutchinson (Marquis); stepsons Aaron Simmons and Antonio Simmons; his brother, Jeff; his sisters Bessie Stowers (Cleo), Clara Kirk (Larry) and Marie Lee; 15 grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.

Rosie said, “To my good man, my good friend and my good husband that I love so much and so dearly, I thank God for giving us the 45-plus years together. We did a lot together. I miss you. I love you and thank you for being so good to me. Why did you have to leave me? I need you, but I know we will see each other again. I’m going to miss you really bad. From your beautiful wife as you always called me. Bye, James. No, see you later.”

Angela said, “I love you so much. I thank God for blessing me with the best! You were my everything! A true example of a man of God, husband, father, friend and protector. I thank you for loving our mother the way you did. Your smile, joy, laughter and most of all your love will be missed but never forgotten. Take your well-deserved rest, true and faithful servant. I will see you again. I’ll forever be your baby girl.”

“James’ life was defined by his faith, his family and his smile” shared Joe Kurth, chief operating officer of the Milwaukee Athletic Club. “His example remains for all that were privileged to have had the opportunity to know him. It was clear in the services and reception celebrating his life with prayers, remembrances, and resolutions that James is still encouraging all of us to come together remembering him with a smile.”

On behalf of all who knew him: James, thank you for welcoming us into your family!

(If you want to reach out to James Jackson’s family, please contact his daughter Angela Hutchinson. Angela can be reached at

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