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Valerie Durham

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Durham, Valerie

Valerie L. Durham died on December 6, 2013 at her home in Norwich, NY. She was born in Endicott, NY October 28, 1957 to Raymond and Elva Durham (nee Moon), who predeceased her. She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law, Brian and Kathy Durham, South Portland, Maine; her aunt, Marjorie Helen Kent (nee Moon), Apalachin, NY; her uncle, Clifford Petrie of Monmouth Beach, NJ; and her dearest friend Jane Coddington, Norwich, NY. Valerie graduated from Vestal High School in 1976. She graduated from Harvard University, Summa Cum Laude in 1981 with a Bachelor's degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. She earned her Master's degree in Japanese Literature and prepared her doctoral work at Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan. She was a scholar of language and spoke and/or interpreted Japanese, French, American English, Japanese Pidgin English and Kansai dialect. She was also a gifted musician who played bassoon in college and high school orchestras, and sang in Vestal Voices and a select choral group at Harvard. Valerie was a brilliant scholar. She was meticulous, thorough, and intellectually exacting, always producing work that could be depended upon for its accuracy and quality. This she demonstrated in the many papers she wrote on the topic of 'evil women' in late Edo and early Meiji Period literature, with her focus on popular Kabuki drama. While many foreign scholars of Kabuki are enticed by that theatre's unique performance style, rather it was the original texts themselves that attracted Valerie, as well as the social and cultural environment that inspired their creation. She was also a gifted translator of these texts, and several of her translations have been published in such volumes as 'Kabuki Plays on Stage' (University of Hawai'i Press, 2003), and in 'An Edo Anthology', her last work to be published (also by the Univ. of Hawai'i Press) earlier this year. As a professional academic, Valerie was also ambitious and courageous. Having graduated from Harvard and having spent many years in Japan perfecting her language skills, she could easily have found an excellent teaching post at a university in the US. However, Valerie decided to remain in Japan with the intention of becoming a recognized expert in the field of Japanese literature. This was extremely difficult to achieve because her competition was native Japanese academics. Much to the admiration of her colleagues, she achieved this feat when she became a professor in the Department of Japanese Literature at Senshu University in Tokyo. Students in Japan, as well as academics in her field in Japan and abroad, will sorely miss her valuable contributions. Valerie's friends all over the world and throughout the US will all miss her keen insights, unique perspectives and engaging dialogues that she initiated every day online. Most of all, they will miss her caring presence, sensitivity, sense of humor and childlike wonder in the world. Her passing leaves a void in the hearts of many. She recently moved back to the United States, having lived and worked in Japan for 36 years. She visited Norwich, NY in 2012 and was attracted to its charm, the Victorian homes and the welcoming, friendly people. She purchased a home full of history and character on South Broad Street and was delighting in making it her own. Ever the curious scholar when something captured her interest, she pored over everything she could find in order to learn all she could about the topic at hand. She did nothing halfway or small. For example, her love of cats drew her to showing Maine Coons in Japan, where in only a few short years, she had several Grand Champions. This led to her establishing a licensed cattery in Japan called Cattery Veritas, where she bred Maine Coons. Valerie was a deeply sensitive soul who loved animals, especially cats. In her sensitivity, she felt injustice, violence and war very deeply. She delighted in discoveries large and small, was an adventurous eater and cook, lover of Japanese hot springs and Buddhist temples, and a voracious reader. She savored the beauty of upstate NY as the 'prettiest place in the world.' Her final months were very happy ones as she settled into her new community and home, and had begun her new life here in the United States. A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, December 21st at 11 AM at the Broad Street United Methodist Church. Friends are invited to call from 10-11 AM at the church immediately preceding the service. A luncheon will be held in the church fellowship hall following the service. Private interment will be at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Valerie's name 'for the care and feeding of cats' to the: Chenango SPCA, 6160 County Road 32, Norwich, New York 13815, or online at The arrangements are under the direction of the Wilson Funeral Home. Condolences may be sent to Valerie's family by visiting the funeral home website at:

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin on Dec. 19, 2013
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