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Wyandotte's Jimmy Has Died

Jimmy Wirtel was a Wyandotte fixture often seen pushing himself down Biddle in his wheelchair.

Jimmy Wirtel, known to some by his name and to many others by his smiling personality, died Monday.

Jimmy was a Wyandotte fixture who often could be seen pushing himself around town in his wheelchair. A regular at , Jimmy ate there nearly daily, pushing himself backward through the restaurant, maneuvering his way around, but being careful not to disturb anyone else.

Jimmy spent the first 25 years of his life in an institution. He was born disabled and has been wheelchair-bound his entire life. Longtime friend Alice Raupp helped him leave the institution and start living independently. Jimmy moved to Wyandotte in 1975. He left briefly, but had been back for the last two decades.

Without any immediate relatives nearby, Jimmy kept in touch with some via the mail. His cousin, Deb Dorney, learned of his death from a story on Wyandotte Patch.

"I am so very saddened to read this news," she said. "I live in DC and if it hadn't been for your article, I guess I would have heard when my letters would be returned to me. ... Thank you so much for honoring my cousin. He loved the people of Wyandotte, Graceland and Nanna's Kitchen so much."

, which co-hosted , posted this tribute of Jimmy on their Facebook page: "His attitude was inspirational. He was a well known friend to anyone that spent any time in Downtown Wyandotte."

Mayor Joseph Peterson said he remembers Jimmy from walking the beat years ago as a . Peterson said Wirtel never had a negative word to say and his smile would light up a room.

"Jimmy had quite the interesting life," he said. "He never depended on anybody. He will be missed."

When word of his death got out Monday afternoon, those who knew Jimmy or knew of Jimmy were quick to share their memories.

"I used to see him all over town," Mark Zielman wrote on the Wyandotte Patch Facebook page. "I never knew him personally, but I always thought he was very inspiring. I'll miss seeing him."

"When I waitressed at , he would often come in to eat," Shellie Cade wrote. "He was not only one of the sweetest people ever, he was a Wyandotte icon."

"Jimmy, you were a wonderful teacher and friend," Wyandotte artist Patricia Izzo wrote. "Thank you for the conversations about the books you were reading, thank you for your COURAGE, thank you for the smile you flashed with sincerity. You may have been confined to a wheelchair, but your mind and spirit were free. Just like you are now."

Funeral arrangements are pending. Donations for funeral expenses are being accepted at Nanna's Kitchen. Check back later as more information is released.

For more on Jimmy,

Kimberley M. April 02, 2012 at 10:08 PM
This truly breaks my heart, He had such a warming personality and always loved to tell his stories to anyone who would listen.
paticia izzo April 02, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Jimmy read voraciously, I would sit with him for a coffee and more than one good laugh He would always wave, smile and spend a few minutes with me.His body may gave been confined to a wheel chair but his mind and spirit were an inspiration to all.. brilliant, kind and loving...you don't live much better than that...We are all less without him...and hopefully better because of him. I went to Henry Ford Wyandotte hospital to say a prayer with him, but I was too late. He was busy walking somewhere beautiful with friends... I will miss you Jimmy...
Lauren April 03, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Jimmy is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. He never wanted to talk about himself; he wanted to hear about YOUR day and how YOU were doing. That's how he always was: selfless. He never asked for charity and never felt sorry for himself. He was humbling to be around because he knew what was really important. I love you, Jimmy. And I'll miss you like crazy. :)
Billy Bob April 03, 2012 at 03:56 AM
As a newbie to Wyandotte - I saw Jimmy in Nanna's a few times - I could tell he was a regular there as everyone in there coming and going chatted a bit with him and the staff treated them as a beloved family member. By chance very recently we crossed paths and I held the door for him. He shared his smile and his gratitude as if we were old friends. Let's take to heart Jimmy's joys over his struggles & the simple kindnesses we can do for each other - simple as a smile, a wave, an expression of gratitude as we meet and encounter each other in our town. When a town comes together to support and embrace one of it's elders Jimmy or one of it's young ones, Jacob and all the other unseen caring that goes on - that is community. Let us remember all those that cared for Jimmy and with faith, hope and love let us trust all of Jimmy's struggles are over and his soul/spirit is now enjoying boundless joy.
Eda Risk April 03, 2012 at 04:30 AM
I would frequently see Jimmy maneuvering his way around town and every time I said hi he always had a smile and a friendly greeting. He was such an inspiration to me. I will miss seeing his smiling face. Fly with the angels now Jim.
Peter Rose April 03, 2012 at 12:08 PM
The Pay it Forward for Jimmy event was rewarding for all that participated because it made all of us feel so good so be nice, say thank you, and generally appreciate him for his unwavering happy attitude. We lose that influence now on a daily basis, so I for one will post a picture to remind me. Thank you, Jimmy, and farewell.
Julie McKenzie April 03, 2012 at 01:22 PM
What a difference one person can make in a community. God doesn't make mistakes.
Suzi Denby April 03, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Patricia, Those were some of the nicest comments I have ever heard spoken. You have a gift of speaking from the heart about such a kind soul. Yes, Jimmy was dearly loved by so many, and your heartfelt words makes those that didn't know him realize what they missed out on. He was an angel walking among us.
Suzi Denby April 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Beautifully said Julie!
Suzanne M. Halasy April 03, 2012 at 03:10 PM
All of us need to step back and realize that life isn't so bad after all. Most of us will never experience the difficult daily struggles that Jimmy did and always with a smile on his face! What a remarkable inspiration we can all learn from! I am sure he is smiling even more in heaven, finally free of his physical trials. Rest in peace Jimmy, you will be missed with love, Sue Halasy
Gregory P Tongue April 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Jim was an example for kindness, independence and class. We will miss him very much.
Natalie Rankine April 04, 2012 at 12:47 AM
It's hard to believe that we won't be seeing Jimmy downtown anymore. He was one of the kindest people we've ever met and always perpetually cheerful. I saw him almost every day on my way to work or around downtown and he always made me smile. What a blessing he was to The City of Wyandotte!
Jenny Foster April 04, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I never had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful person, but people like Jimmy are such a inspiration to others to bad the whole world could be full of Jimmy's !! R.I.P now, you are a true angel .
Patty April 04, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I knew him and his buddy Mr Keys, AS a Bus driver, the system that started in 1979 I use to pick him and Mr Keys up to go shopping or anywhere they were heading out for the day. Until the system was taking over by What is called SMART did we loose them as riders. Often I thought of them both.
Brittany deliz April 04, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I worked at nannas kitchen for almost 5 years...I loved seeing jimmy every day...when my daughter was born he asked me every time when I was bringing her in to see him. The day I brought her in to see him she smiled sooo big at him and wouldn't stop. I will miss jimmy and always remember just how selfless an happy he was. I love you jimmy! I'll never forget the way my daughter smiled at you
denise funti April 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Jimmy may. God you and keep you in his. Care rip
Alice A. Raupp April 22, 2012 at 03:53 PM
The untold want, by life and land never granted Now Voyager sail forth, to seek and find Walt Whitman James loved ships and always said if he were not a person with a disability he would have been a ships captain...Shortly before he left this Earth he spoke to me of finding a sailing ship...this quote is for him... I would also like to share with all of you his favorite poem written by an unknown Confederate Soldier sometimes known as the Creed for the Disabled I asked God for strength that I might achieve I was made weak that I might lean humbly to obey I asked for health that I might do greater things I was given infirmity that I might do better things I asked for riches that I might be happy I was given poverty that I might be wise I asked for power that I might have the praise of men I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God I asked for all things that I might enjoy life I was given life that I might enjoy all things I got nothing that I I asked for but everything I hoped for I am among all men most richly blessed
Alice A. Raupp April 24, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Jim will have a memorial on May 11 Copeland Center from 7 to 10 in the evening..There is a sign up sheet at Nanas Kitchen for those who would like to come celebrate Jims life...
Bishop Jerry Brohl, COSF June 23, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I often saw Jimmy at Nanna's Kitchen. Always smiling, always ready with a friendly reply to my Hi, Jimmy! He is an excellent positive example to all of us. Whatever limitations we may have, they do not have to enslave us. The Spirit of God within us will overcome anything if we cooperate with It.
Robert A. Foreman October 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Can some put me in contact with Alice A. Raupp.? She would remember me, Jimmy and I were pals. I had the honor of his friendship and companionship for seventeen years, as I drove him back and forth to church each week. Her late husband, Roger, was my supervisor, back in 1984-1986. Robert A. Foreman, bobforeman1@gmail.com. (I moved to Atlanta in 1992 and lost track of him).

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