James Michael Payne
March 11th, 1960 – November 8th, 2022
James Michael Payne was an extraordinary man who touched many lives and accomplished so much in his sixty-two years on this earth. Above all else, Michael was a devoted and loving husband and father as well as an exceptional provider. He was born March 11th, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri, which he would tell you makes him a southerner. Despite his southern beginnings, he primarily spent his childhood in Wheaton, Illinois. Michael had great taste in music, often discovering artists before they became very popular. His siblings credit him for providing the soundtrack of their childhoods. His love of music remained a constant throughout his life. As he got older, he switched from playing music out loud to using headphones. Although, he still played his music at full volume and on repeat, so his wife and children always knew what songs he was into at any particular time. His family remember oftentimes even if he was listening to something with headphones, he’d stop you if you walked by, and say “Hey, come listen to this!” with a big smile on his face.
Michael was a very accomplished man both academically and in his career. From 1979 to 1981, he attended College of DuPage. He then went on to go to DePaul University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce in 1983. Inspired by his beloved grandfather Clifton Caryl’s career as a lawyer, Michael set off to DC for law school. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a Juris Doctor in 1986. Michael worked as an attorney for the FDIC for 37 years, only retiring when his doctor was shocked that he wasn’t already retired because of his health problems.
In 1987, Michael married his great love Carla Jo Payne (nee Bergstedt). Michael said when he first met Carla, he felt like he knew her already. The two were happily married for thirty-five years. They had their first child, Damon Clifton, in 1990. Then in 2000, they had their second child, Vanessa Violet.
Michael was an extremely generous man, known by many of the staff at the local restaurants for his tipping habits. Family recall going to dinner and hearing the wait staff happily call out, “Mr. Michael!” before bringing him whatever his favorite drink was at the time. He enjoyed taking friends and family out to eat, but he’d also on occasion buy lunch to bring to the bartenders and waitresses at Hooters (his local watering hole as he called it). Michael spoiled his family, taking his wife and children to many plays, concerts, and the Renaissance Festival over the years. He provided for his wife and children first, only in his last few years did he purchase some fun things for himself. Even then, he often shared anything he got with his family.
Michael was a brilliant man and incredibly well read. He knew many of the often forgotten parts of history. As a child, he was a part of an experimental reading program where he developed the ability to read extremely fast. He reminisced once about how he shocked some friends of his by reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary in only two hours on the beach. He enjoyed reciting poetry for his family. A favorite of his to recite was “Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling. “It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that!” he’d perform.
There was always an ease of conversation with Michael. Friends often remarked that he would talk to anyone. He had many stories that his family had grown accustomed to hearing on repeat, but those stories never seemed to get old. He enjoyed asking people where they were from and recommending restaurants. He also had a great sense of humor, which could be described as “dirty” or “sick.” We are still unsure of how we are supposed to honor his final request of being shot out of a canon.
His stories, his jokes, and his long chats will be dearly missed. All his family have said after his passing is that we wish we could talk to him again. No words can truly describe how great of a man he was nor how great his loss will be felt by all who knew him. He is survived by his wife Carla, his daughter Vanessa, his son Damon, his mother Ann, his brother Jeff (Bernadette), his brother Chris (Dorothy), His sister Mary Ann Lux (Brad), his nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews, his dogs Tigger and Roo, and countless friends.
A memorial service will be held at Tom Wages Funeral Home on Saturday, December 3rd at 1:00 PM. There will be a viewing beforehand from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. We welcome everyone to speak at the service if they’d like to and please bring your favorite Michael story as we plan to share many.