James E. Conley Jr., a true Renaissance Man, passed peacefully on March 20. A newspaperman, business leader, world traveler, philanthropist and art collector, he was born on August 31, 1943 in Madison, Wisconsin to James E. Conley, MD and Lillian Quirk Conley.
Jim will be remembered through his media legacy of weekly and daily newspapers, shoppers, city magazines, trade publications and extensive art collections that will continue to be open to the public through the Heritage Museum of Asian Art in Chicago and the Tucson Desert Art Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
He began his career in newspapers in 1967 at the Wall Street Journal and in 1969 purchased the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen newspaper with business partner, Francis "Bill" Connors. Thus, began a lifelong love affair of newspapering… acquiring and building them throughout his life, including the Waukesha Freeman, The West Bend Daily News, Oconomowoc Enterprise, Daily Citizen, Ozaukee County News Graphic and others. Jim started two city magazines, Tucson Lifestyle in 1983 and MKE Lifestyle in 1993 and in 1990 began publishing a trade magazine for the media industry, News and Tech. Through his many endeavors he continued to be an active, persistent voice in the necessity for accurate and unbiased reporting to the American public.
Jim's philanthropic interests were far reaching and impactful. He was a founding member of the Beaver Dam Scholarship Foundation, an organization that awards scholarship funds to students to help attend a 4-year college or technical college of their choice. He supported Beaver Dam's Clothes 4 Kids, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children in Dodge County, WI.; served for several years as a member of The Hoover Institute Board of Overseers and provided funding to the Stanford Research Foundation for the translation of the diaries of Chiang Kai-shek; and helped many other nonprofit organizations, enhancing their ability to freely promote their public events and exhibitions. He was a member of the Directors Circle of the Tucson Museum of Art and past president of the museum's Patrons of Western Art group.
As a world traveler and collector, Jim believed in sharing his collections with the public, exhibiting his Oriental collections (Han and Beyond) at the Tucson Museum of Art for six years and Summer in China at the Milwaukee Art Museum. His southwestern art collections have been shown at the Denver Art Museum, Tucson Museum of Art and now are open to the public in a museum he founded in Tucson, Arizona. A prodigious reader, he enjoyed being on top of "everything that's remotely important." He spent several years compounding information on the importance of various omegas in the diet and wrote about the subject years before the medical community got on board.
Jim is survived by his wife Rhonda R. Smith <http://www.legacy.com/memorial-sites/smith/>and their son Brandt James Conley, as well as son James Conley III (Margie), Christopher Conley (Wendy), Brooke Conley (Michael Levien) and their mother Nancy Conley. Jim was preceded in death by son Patrick Parker Conley in 1997.
He leaves siblings Emily (William) Keelty, Robert (Lisa) Conley, Bruce (Karla) Conley, Ellen (Gerald Gensch) Conley, Katherine Brandt Conley. Five grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins also survive.
Although the urge to yell "Stop the Presses" may run in the veins of some newspapermen, for Jim Conley the word "Stop" didn't resonate; he forged many legacies over his lifetime with the hope and intention that they "continue to roll on" over many decades.
A memorial celebration of Jim's life is planned for the late summer of 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Condolences and memorials may be sent to Shellhouse Rivers Funeral Home in Aiken South Carolina.
Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be sent to The Heritage Museum of Asian Art in Chicago or the Tucson Desert Art Museum in Arizona or a museum of their choice.