URBANA – James A. "Jim" Fink, successful local businessman, committed civic leader, proud Fighting Illini fan and loving family man, passed away in Urbana on Sunday (Jan. 12, 2014).
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 S. Prospect Ave., Champaign. Friends may greet the family from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the church.
Jim was born Nov. 8, 1930, in Freeport, Ill., to William and Lucile Fink. He graduated from Freeport High School in 1948. As a Freeport Pretzel, Jim excelled in track and basketball.
Jim attended Beloit College from 1948-50 on a track scholarship and was initiated into the Wisconsin Phi chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He transferred to the University of Illinois and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor of arts in journalism.
Jim married his high school sweetheart, Phyllis Celander, on Aug. 23, 1952, in Freeport. Jim and Phyllis had five children, 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and greatly enjoyed the company of their large, extended family.
After graduation from the U of I, Jim began a successful career in the insurance business, working as a field agent for the Freeport Insurance Co. and American States Insurance from 1953 to 1967. He purchased and operated O'Neil-Hidy Insurance Agency in 1967 and 1968. In 1969, Fink became partners with Art Tyler and Pete Fletcher in the highly successful Tyler-Fletcher-Fink Insurance Agency.
After leaving the insurance business in 1980, Jim worked in retail sales for Champaign National Bank from 1980 to 1994. During the 1980s, Jim also operated Players Professional Management (PPM), a sports representation agency. PPM represented Bonnie Blair, U.S. Olympic gold medalist, during her successful performances in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. He also represented U of I football head coach John Mackovic, U of I volleyball head coach Mike Hebert and several U of I football players. Jim ultimately returned to banking, joining Central Illinois Bank before he retired in 2006.
Jim was very active in various civic activities. During his term as president of the Champaign Chamber of Commerce, he was part of the welcoming committee for President Gerald Ford in March 1976. He also served in many other capacities, including as a board member of the Champaign Country Club from 1981-83 and its treasurer in 1983.
Jim was named an honorary commissioner of the Champaign Park District; served as Champaign County township trustee, and precinct committeeman for the Champaign County Republicans; was vice chairman of the Citizens Education Committee in the late 1960s; and was chairman of the citizens committee backing the referendum proposal for construction of the new Champaign Public Library in 1975-76.
Jim was a member of the Champaign Rotary Club during the 1970s and 1980s, and then served as a member of the C-U Kiwanis Club in the 1990s and into the 21st century. He was an active alumnus in his collegiate fraternity, serving as a member of the Illinois Beta of Sigma Alpha house corporation throughout the 1960s, and being inducted as a member of the Alumni Red Ribbon Society in 1986.
Jim may be best known as an enthusiastic Fighting Illini athletics booster. He was president of the Playmakers (men's basketball) booster club in 1970-71, and a founding member of the Rebounders (men's basketball) booster club. Jim was also president of the U of I Quarterback Club boosters in 1980-1981.
He served as a track official during the 1977 and 1979 NCAA Track and Field Championships held at the U of I Memorial Stadium, and was a member of the U of I men's basketball official statistics crew for many years. Jim was inducted as a member of the Varsity "I" Club in 1979, and his proudest accomplishment came as chairman of the highly successful Tailgreat events from 1982 through 1987.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis; father, William; mother, Lucile; and brother, Larry. He is survived by his five children, Steve (Suellen) Fink of Cullom, Doug (Elizabeth Weathers) Fink of Champaign, Karen (Jeff) Pence) of Carrollton, Texas, Greg (Kay) Fink of Urbana and Janet (Phillip) Sproat of Leesburg, Va.; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Please send memorials to the Champaign Public Library Foundation, 200 W. Green St., Champaign, IL 61820.
Condolences may be offered at www.owensfuneralhomes.com.