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James Merrill Shook


1949 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
James Merrill Shook Obituary
James Merrill Shook (Jim) was born May 4, 1949 in Amsterdam, New York. His parents were Merrill Rockwell Shook, an artist and photographer, and Janet Shook, a loving mother. Jim died on December 20, 2017, attended by friends new and old after a short illness with cancer. Jim is survived by his sister Patricia Shook Misiuk and her husband Jozef Misiuk of Lakeland, Florida.

Jim graduated from Amherst College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, as a member of the Class of 1971. After graduation, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and lived there for most of his adult life. His career path included teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and at Harvard University. Jim worked in animation and computer graphics in the Boston area as well.

In his later years, Jim moved to a farmhouse built in 1800 in Bennington County and embraced rural living in Vermont. He undertook a meticulous renovation of the original post and beam barn with authentic materials at the farm, which was a source of great pride to him. He also continued to collect music and artwork from all over the world as part of his travels, and tended his vegetable garden.

One of Jim's greatest pleasures and passions in his life was world travel. He was committed to social justice and environmental causes. He held a deep and abiding respect for all people.

Jim self-published several photography books on his travels, including North and South, 2 books on New Zealand, and a book titled Tibet. His goal was to educate and enlighten others through his photography on the beauty and wonder of this earth and give faces to the different people who live in our world.

He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, New Zealand. He had just returned from a trip to Madagascar, Botswana, South Africa and France when he became ill. He told one friend that Madagascar was the last country on his list of places to see before he died.

Rabbi Robert Alper, a neighbor, a well-known comedian, and an advocate for Jim in his last months, led friends and family in a spirited celebration of Jim's life on January 12, 2018, in Manchester, Vermont. A few of the shared stories at this gathering described Jim well. A long-time friend from Jim's years in Cambridge shared that Jim collected things that look heavy but are light, and things that look light but are heavy. Jim was a Beatles fan and had an extensive music collection. He took great joy in completing cryptic crossword puzzles in ink with no erasures.

Jim was a world citizen, a good neighbor, a loving younger brother to Patricia, and he will be missed.

Jim's sister Patricia wishes to thank everyone on "Team Jim" who worked hard to support Jim in his last weeks of life. Rabbi Robert and Sherri Alper, Jim's next-door neighbors, arranged for his home medical care in his last weeks, Bayada Home Health/Hospice for their nursing care, and Eva and Lianne and the aides from Rutland Regional Medical Center palliative care department and the 5th Floor nursing staff who made sure Jim was as comfortable as he could be in his last hours.

Jim's social justice legacy will live on for a long time to come. He donated the majority of his wealth to charities, including the American Himalayan Foundation, which advocates for the preservation of the environment of Mount Everest and the Himalayan people; Doctors without Borders for their efforts to promote health and deliver medical care throughout the world in underserved areas and places of war and conflict; and Amherst College. Bennington College has been gifted the majority of Jim's book collection and music collection so that generations to come can study and hear authentic African tribal music and other rare music from around the world.

Jim's remains have made one last transatlantic flight to Iceland. His last wish for his remains to be released on a mountain in Iceland will be honored shortly when his remains are scattered at the summit of Mt. Holshyrna in north Iceland. Jim loved Iceland and he spent significant time there to photograph the mountains and the people for his book North and South.

The Search and Rescue volunteer organization in Siglufjordur, North Iceland, will receive a much-needed donation for rescue equipment for their willingness to scatter Jim's ashes at the summit of Mt. Holshyrna. Jim would have liked the fact his legacy is helping a Search and Rescue volunteer team buy a much-needed new boat for maritime rescues.

In Memoriam Gifts: Jim's sister, Patricia, has requested that anyone who wishes to donate in Jim's memory do so by sending a check made payable to Bjorgunarsveitin Strakar, and mail it to the organization at the following address: Tjarnargata 18, IS-580 Siglufjordur Iceland. For more information on the Siglufjordur Search and Rescue volunteer group, their Facebook page can be found on Facebook at Bjorgunarsveitin.Strakar.
Published in The Manchester Journal from Mar. 30 to Apr. 20, 2018
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