Longtime Wauwatosa residents Mel and Jill Mickey moved to the Charles Jacobus Park Neighborhood in 1970. They have made their home here in Tosa and have shared a lifetime of experiences together in their 52 years of marriage. They are inspired and motivated as noted by their stated family motto, Carpe Diem, the Latin term for ‘seize the day.’ It is a Tosa Connection pleasure to introduce you to this wonderful couple and their 4+ decades of family history here in the City of Homes.
Mel and Jill met at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1960. They were married four years later. After spending short stints living in Lacrosse, WI and St. Louis, MO they made their way to Milwaukee County in 1966.
They both say that the big draw to the Tosa area at the time was the fact that they had three young children at home, and the Tosa school district had recently announced the beginning of a four-year old kindergarten program. Following a fairly short housing search, the Mickeys landed a wonderful home with loads of potential and a great yard for the staggering price tag of $24,500.
Neighbors Make The Neighborhood
They “lucked” into this wonderfully classic, Wauwatosa neighborhood block (technically two city blocks connected) that would later, throughout the 1970s and early 80s, sport over 100 children. Jill recalls bugling the kids home for dinner from the park-like backyards atmosphere with “Call to the Races”, because yelling throughout the neighborhood to get the family at the dinner table just took too long.
The Mickeys raised 5 children in their casual, cabin-like home: Michelle, Annette, Lance, Lisa and Colleen. They have also been blessed with 11 grandchildren. The Mickey family has been members of St. Jude the Apostle and St. Therese Catholic Parishes.
Mel, born Mel Mikulski on Milwaukee’s Southside, had his surname changed by the family when he was a boy. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, when Mel was growing up here, many forms of discrimination manifested throughout Milwaukee. In the tight job market of the day, discrimination against Polish immigrants was strong. Good work being hard find, and the traditional “ski” being an obvious giveaway as to their ancestry, the family decided to change its name to Mickey to avoid immediate prejudices.
Mel majored in Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The skills that he learned and practiced thereafter would make him one of the original computer and tech nerds of his time. He worked at Allis-Chalmers, Schlitz, and the Case Corporation in Racine and Manpower.
Jill, nee Bylow, earned her degree in Upper Elementary Education from Oshkosh. She taught elementary education in Winona, MN until getting fired for the mere offense of being a married woman. Jill subbed for years in the Milwaukee Public School System, and sings in a gospel choir with many of her former colleagues at MPS.
Jill has long been involved in her neighborhood book club, and she also procures and delivers charitable food offerings to St. Benedict the Moor Parish kitchen in downtown Milwaukee. And, as a bit of Mickey trivia, Jill lays claim to having visited each of the 50 States!
The Family that Plays Together and Works Together…
The Mickey family exemplifies the outdoorsy, sporting lifestyle so typical of Wauwatosa families today. In particular, the Mickeys are avid soccer, skiing, camping and volleyball enthusiasts. Mel played in softball and volleyball leagues until he was 53 and was basically ordered to stop.
Mel and Jill love the outdoors. Ever since their children were very young, Mel and Jill would organize cross-country camping trips to Canada, the West Coast and the Southwest. For over 30 years, they have been taking their family on skiing trips to the Rocky Mountains. Arapahoe Basin is one of their favorite spots. Some years “A” Basin has skiable snow until July.
Jill was the first women’s soccer coach at Greenfield High School. And the Tosa Kickers soccer clubs were a “second family” for them for over 10 years. A few of the connected backyards on their block served as a soccer field, ice rink and all around play area for the dozens of kids on the block. At one time in the early 1980s, all seven of the Mickeys participated on 12 different soccer teams in one year!
Mel and Jill are a couple that does so much together, as a team. They have a hands-on approach to home improvement that would make the folks at Puhl’s True Value quite proud. From the attic to the basement, the front porch to the backyard fire pit, Mel and Jill have taken on home improvement projects that would shame even the finest reality TV show hosts.
Just recently, the Mickey Reconstruction Company has poured a new driveway, added a new garage and an outdoor fireplace. The problem for Mel isn’t the idea that he wouldn’t pay for the repairs or remodeling, but that he knows they can do the job better. And save money.
Even with all the talent in the family, the youngest, Colleen, still managed to stand out. She was inducted last year in the first class of inductees of the Wauwatosa East Athletic Hall of Fame (see Tosa Connection Volume 1 Issue 2). In her junior year at Tosa East, Colleen was an All-State soccer selection. Her senior year, she earned all-state honors in volleyball, and was a member of the state championship teams in both volleyball and soccer, an incredible accomplishment. Colleen Mickey accepted a full volleyball scholarship to UW-Green Bay.
Then, devastatingly, on March 15, 1994, Colleen was driving near Green Bay with a friend late at night. Neither person had their seatbelt on. And after what was determined to be an “over-corrective driving incident”, Colleen was tossed fifty feet out of the rolled vehicle and suffered massive brain injuries. Her passenger walked away virtually physically unharmed. But Colleen would never recover.
Colleen’s soul left this planet 23 years ago but her heart beats on today. Literally. Colleen donated many life-saving tissues through the organ donor program in Madison. She was able to donate her heart to a male recipient, and it beats to this very day.
Mel and Jill agree that there is comfort in knowing that the donation of her organs, tissues and marrows helped others live. They encourage everyone to sign the organ donor form on the back of driver’s licenses.
Sweetly and emotionally, they were presented with an amazing gift from their granddaughter three years ago; a recording of the rhythm and meter of Colleen’s beating heart.
Colleen’s generous and competitive spirit lives on in other ways as well. In 1995, The Mickey family created the Carpe Diem Scholarship Fund in Colleen’s memory. Each year, seniors at Wauwatosa East can apply for two scholarships in her name.
Tax deductible donations to the Carpe Diem Scholarship Fund can be sent to: 558 N. 68th Street, Wauwatosa, WI 53213.
The Mickeys are a shining example of the kind of tight-knit family we have become accustomed to in our community. The kind of family that never outgrows Tosa, and that Tosa never outgrows. From neighborhood to church, athletic achievement to home-improvement, even in the rearing of their 11 grandchildren, the Mickeys are the people in your neighborhood.