James William ‘Spike’ Carlson Sr., of Decatur
June 2, 1932 — Dec. 30, 2017
On Dec. 30, 2017, James William “Spike” Carlson Sr., 85, passed away peacefully at the VA Home in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and children by his side.
Spike was born June 2, 1932, in Decatur. The family moved to Dowagiac in 1943.
He graduated from Dowagiac Central High School in 1951, where he was a sports enthusiast and participated in golf, football and basketball. He was presented with the All Sports Award that year.
He attended Western Michigan College for a while and was also in the ROTC. He left college to join the Air Force and spent tours in Italy, Turkey, and flew over 100 missions in the Vietnam War. In 1966, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada for heroism in attempting and locating a downed pilot in Vietnam and continued to orbit the area despite dense flak until rescue aircraft positively identified the pilot’s position. Major Carlson retired in 1973 from Mountain Home AFB, ID and moved the family to Boise. (He often said that he felt. safer flying his F-105 than driving a car on the highway.)
Spike enjoyed many outdoor activities including: running (the Boston Marathon in 1978), golfing, hunting, fishing, gardening, traveling and most of all coaching. He coached multiple sports: football, baseball, softball, track, basketball and golf.
Spike and his four brothers served nearly 85 years of military service in either the Air Force, Army, National Guard or Navy. All our families, especially Mother, were very proud of them. There was a span of 19 years when they weren’t able to be all together at the same time.
Spike’s laughter, gentleness and tremendous hugs were enjoyed greatly by many. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend and will be greatly missed by all.
He is survived by his loving wife of 47 years, Marlene; son, Michael (Bonnie) Carlson and daughter, Lorraine Wood, both of Boise; daughter, Karen (David) Chezem of Nampa, ID and son, Anthony (Carrie) Carlson of Carol Stream, Illinois, 13 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren; siblings: brothers, Richard (Kathleen) Carlson, Sr. of Edwardsburg and Robert (Phyllis) Birkholm of Scotts, Michigan; sister, Betty Phillips of Dowagiac; sisters-in-law; Andree Carlson of Niles and Denise Carlson of Gainsville, Virginia, brother-in-law, Val Kuffel of Ft. Myers, Florida.
Spike is preceded in death by his parents, Theodore Carlson and Mabel Smith/Carlson/Wood; son, James W. Carlson, Jr.; sisters: Estella Carlson and Doris (Lloyd) Householder, brothers; Theodore Stanley Carlson and Muri (Skip) Carlson, sister-inlaw Joyce Carlson and brother-in-law Bruce Phillips.
Funeral services were held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, and he was laid to rest at the Idaho State Veteran’s Cemetery on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.