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James Donald Lee

Oct 02, 1934 - Jan 25, 2020


James Donald Lee, 85, passed away on January 25, 2020 at the Sheboygan Senior Community, where he had been a resident for the past two years. He leaves behind his loving wife of 61 years, Shirley (Gunkel) Lee; his sons, Robert Lee (Maria) and Randal Lee (Lisa); two grandsons, Fr. Dimitri Lee and Gregory Lee; great-grandsons and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio, the son of James and Leatha (Lakes) Lee. He joined the U.S. Army in 1953 and served with the 201st Combat Engineers until 1956. On June 14, 1958, he married Shirley Mae Gunkel and they had been happily married for over 61 years.

James had many life hobbies including fishing, playing the drums in his own band known as “Jimmy Lee and the Downbeats”, making buttons and balloon animals, performing tricks with his Yo-Yo’s, such as “Spaghetti”, “Walk The Dog”, and “Bank Deposit”. He was truly a kid at heart. He won his first Yo-Yo competition at the age of 14 and entertained the young and old for more than 70 years. He also loved to play Ping Pong and taught the game to three generations.

James was one of a kind and was once referred to as an “American Treasure”. He had many nicknames, including “Captain Buttons” and “King of the String”, He was Buttons the Clown for Citizens Bank, where he held the title of President of the Junior Savings Club. Some of his favorite memories included tent camping, fishing, boat riding and simply clowning around with family and friends. He had many friends and followers and was loved by all who met him.

A viewing and celebration of his life will be held on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at Reinbold-Novak Funeral Home, 1535 S. 12th St., Sheboygan, from 10:00 a.m. until the time of service at 12:00 p.m.
Online condolences may be expressed at


Date: Thursday Jan 30, 2020
Time: 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.
Location: Reinbold-Novak Funeral Home [map]

Funeral Service

Date: Thursday Jan 30, 2020
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Location: Reinbold-Novak Funeral Home [map]



Guestbook Entries SIGN GUESTBOOK

Susan Saldivar Pulos

My condolences Bob to you and your family on your father's passing. Our prayers are with you all.

gary r ellnger

made friends with Jim in 2014. nice guy and enjoyed his company.

Peggy & Cedric Dunkerly

Mr. Lee was a fascinating man. He talents were true acts of kindness, because he made people happy. Whether it was his yo- yo skills, clowning , or button making, his God-given gifts put a smile on everyone’s face. We have a feeling, Heaven will stay quite entertained! Mr. Lee was a wonderful man. May his memory be eternal. ✝️ Peggy & Cedric Dunkerly