was born May 27, 1936 to Arthur and Ida (nee Swille) Sharkey at the family farmhouse in rural Wilson, MI. He was the youngest of six- the trailer child- and the apple of his mother Ida’s eye. He grew up without benefit of running water and he could recall when the farm first got electricity. He did his chores on the farm with an eye to sneak away to go trap and play in the woods and creek bottoms like any good Yooper boy of his vintage.
Arlis joined the Air Force and served from 1956 to 1960 as a radar tech. Most of his time was spent in Alaska, a place he once said that he never fully returned from. He was there when Alaska became a state and recalled it was one helluva party. Arlis worked in the Artic Circle on the DEW Line and in the Alaskan wilderness on aircraft navigational beacons. He parlayed his radar tech skills into an electronics degree from DePaul and started in the television repair business just as TVs were becoming common. He used to boast that he installed more than half the TV antennas in central and northern Marinette County. He ran Sharkey’s TV in Crivitz at a time long before the big box stores ever existed, selling and servicing TVs and appliances.
Arlis raced snowmobiles on the pro/am circuit and the handsome bachelor was once tasked with driving Miss Wisconsin 1968 around the track at the USSA National Championship Race in Weyauwega, WI. His love of snowmobiling never abated, and he spent more than 25 years as a DNR Snowmobile Safety Instructor. He delighted in introducing kids to safe and responsible snowmobiling.
On some fateful day in 1970 the seemingly confirmed 33 year old bachelor bought a young gal a drink while at a supper club in Crivitz. That gal was Kate Karn. They would become an inseparable couple, marrying on June 19, 1971. From that union would come his two sons- Michael and Scott. Two summers ago Arlis and Kate- with friends and family in attendance- renewed their vows and celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
Arlis built a little greenhouse in the mid 1970s for fun. After having his friends and neighbors all request that he get their tomatoes and other plants started for them in the cold Wisconsin springtime, he understood that he could make a business out of growing. Over the years he expanded his greenhouse operations. Arlis took great pride in his plants and anyone who ever went in the back greenhouses would see the little plant tags lined up like disciplined soldiers in rank and file. Both his sons inherited his green thumb. The greenhouse business that he started those many years ago is now in the capable hands of Scott and Amy Sharkey.
Arlis continued to care deeply for the greenhouses. When he was in better health he would visit the greenhouses several times a day during growing season. Arlis, as do all the Sharkeys, loved the rich smell of good moist soil and the hopeful positivity of seeing little seedlings stretch out to the sunlight. He would sometimes sit in a chair and watch customers delight in shopping for flowers and veggies, taking pride in what he had started so long ago. In later years, when he was not able to visit the greenhouses, he would request a daily report on the growing season and progress.
Arlis believed that he could fix any type of equipment and that a roll of duct tape and a vise-grips were the two greatest tools ever invented. His “fixer” skills would sometimes lead to absurdly comical results (ask Kate about her broken garden hoe). There was nothing more frightening than being asked to hold the flashlight for him. Both his sons still have scars from their failures to “hold the damn light right!” Second only to holding the flashlight was the fear of being asked to go fetch a particular tool (other than duct tape or vise-grips) as it would inevitably not be the right one. “No! Not that one! Don’t you knowthe other one- the one with the thingy on it!” he was heard to say many times. Kate, Michael, and Scott all got their steps in when helping him fix something.
In later years, Arlis would add super glue to his list of indispensable tools. Kate learned to disappear whenever she saw him with a tube of super glue as the results were inevitably ridiculous.
He was truly a hard worker- no one could ever accuse Arlis of being lazy. His work ethic and drive were, for him, an expression of love and commitment to his family’s wellbeing. Even within the last few months he could be found wrenching on a tractor, hammering on a wall, or putting duct tape or super glue on something.
Arlis served on the Village of Crivitz Board and later as Municipal Judge in Crivitz. As judge, he would sometimes perform marriages and found humor in arriving at a wedding on his motorcycle.
He was a man of faith and a dedicated Roman Catholic. He was possessed of a strong moral conviction and principles, though not without nuance and a live and let live tolerance for others.
After retiring from the greenhouse business Arlis’ desire to grow things and continue to be productive was channeled into starting an orchard. Along with Kate he started Sharkey’s Orchard in 2004 just north of Crivitz. He found great happiness in working out in the orchard tending his apple trees. His ability to consume apple sauce was legendary, as was his ability to accidentally back over something with his beloved John Deere.
Arlis lived a rich and full life. He was a dedicated husband, a loving father (except when you were holding the flashlight wrong), and a friend to many. On Jan. 26, 2023 he passed away in the company of his family, and in doing so he taught us both how to live and how to die. We should all be so lucky.
He is survived by his wife of more than 51 years, Kate Sharkey, his son Michael, his son Scott (Amy), his grandchildren Samantha and Alex (who were the light of his life in his later years), and nieces and nephews. With his passing the world is a little duller and less humorous. While his death leaves a void in the hearts of his family and friends, the joy he brought us will never be forgotten.
Visitation will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Crivitz from 5-7pm on Friday, Feb. 3rd. Visitation will also take place from 9-11am on Saturday, Feb. 4th with a Mass of Christian Burial at 11am. Burial will be in St. Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Crivitz following Mass with full military honors accorded by the Crivitz American Legion Post #413.
Roubal Funeral Home of Wausaukee is handling the arrangements.
Goodnight, sweet prince. You were truly loved.