WESTVILLE - Joe Wise, 82, of Westville, passed away early in the evening of Thursday, March 1, 2018, surrounded by his loving family at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana.
A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Sunset Funeral Home, 3940 N. Vermillion St. in Danville, Ill. A visitation with the family will be 4-8 p.m. Friday evening at the funeral home, followed by Masonic rites (Joe was a Third Degree Master Mason and a 58-year member of the Russell Lodge No. 154 of the Masons).
Joe is survived by his wife of over 62 years, Arlene (Long) Wise; his daughter, Jolene Marie Wise-Silverman and her husband, Steve Silverman, of Chicago; his granddaughter, Shannon (Aaron) Nascimento and his great-grandson, Nathan Nascimento, of San Jose, Calif.; his brother, Tony (Norma) Wise of Crawfordsville, Ind.; and many other relatives and friends, including many he and Arlene made while traveling the country for his many construction consulting assignments. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, J.D. and Ruth, and by his brother, Louie.
Joe was born June 12, 1935, in a coal-miner's shack in Mission Field, Ill.
He and his family moved to Hegler when he was 6. He graduated from Westville High School in 1953. At WHS, he played football, was a member of the Owl Honor Society and participated in various hijinks and pranks with his friends.
It was while a student at WHS, in the summer of 1950, that he met the love of his life, the "new girl in town" Arlene Long. They were married June 18, 1955.
Joe started working at the age of 6 as a newsboy and never stopped working after that. After high school, he was a certified welder for Illinois Power Company for 11 years. He then leased and ran a Marathon gas station in Westville. Following that, with several partners, he ran a farm equipment and truck-testing station.
In the late 1960s, he began his excavation business, Joe Wise Contracting. Moving earth was a lifelong passion for Joe (Joe's mother always told the story that as a child, Joe would sit in the yard and dig holes with a spoon), and he continued to do excavation jobs up until his recent hospitalization. At an age when most men are fishing and playing cards, Joe was buying new backhoes and dump trucks.
Looking for ever greater challenges, in 1987 Joe began a new career as a construction consultant/project manager, spending the next 15 years overseeing the construction of manufacturing and distribution plants around the country. He supervised projects for such national companies as Cabelas, Mill's Pride, and Trus Joist MacMillan. His jobs took him to South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont, Ohio and Indiana.
Joe also served his community in an official capacity. He was the past president of the Westville-Belgium Sanitary District and the vice president of the Sandusky Cemetery Board.
And then there were motorcycles. Joe claimed that he had gotten his first motorcycle at the age of 10, and started seriously riding at the age of 16. Over the years, he and Arlene took more trips than they could count on his beloved BMW motorcycle. Joe once calculated that they had traveled at least 200,000 miles by motorcycle. They biked all across the United States and Canada, many times with friends.
Joe's fascination with speed didn't stop with the motorcycle. For many years Joe Wise Construction sponsored a motorcycle racing team and Joe was a mechanic for various sprint cars and a flagman at the local stock car track (which he also built). For decades, Joe has had his own garage in downtown Westville. Originally intended as a facility to maintain his construction vehicles, Joe continued to spend time there nearly every day. One of his favorite garage projects was several years ago, when he rebuilt a 1963 Jaguar XKE starting only with a rusty frame and engine block.
Not only could he make or fix anything, but he was also sought out by many for his sage advice (or as he called it, "divine guidance") on nearly any subject.
Joe passed on his love of wheels and speed to his daughter, Jolene. Joe bought her a motorcycle when she was a teenager (to the consternation of Arlene). He taught her to drive a dump truck and a backhoe before she learned how to drive a car. Jolene now has the family tickets to the Indy 500 which were passed down to her by Joe and Arlene many years ago.
Joe and Arlene had a soft spot for young people. They would encourage them to pursue their education; often providing financial assistance to make that a reality. Twelve years ago, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, they set up the Joe and Arlene Wise Scholastic Fund to provide scholarships for local high school students.
His gregarious and generous nature, his sense of humor and great heart will be remembered by his many, many friends around town and around the country. Joe lived the life he wanted for himself, for his beloved family and for his friends. No one who knew Joe will ever forget him.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, the family asks that donations be made in Joe's name to Zamberletti Park Project (mail to: Westville City Hall, 201 N. State Street, Westville, IL 61883) or Avenues to Independence (mail to: 515 Busse Hwy, Park Ridge, IL 60068 or online at www.avenuestoindependence.org).
Please join the family in sharing memories, photos and videos on Joe's Tribute Wall at sunsetfuneralhome.com
Published on March 6, 2018