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John Van Cleve James


1942 - 2017
John Van Cleve James Obituary
John Van Cleve James

John Van Cleve James died peacefully at his home in Seattle on Monday, February 27, 2017 at the age of 75.

John was born on February 2, 1942 to Leroy Marshall ("Bud") James and Margaret Van Cleve James in Exeter, California, the second of their two children.

John graduated from Exeter Union High School in 1959 and went on to attend the University of Oregon, majoring in History. After receiving his B.A. in 1964, he went on to complete Masters Degrees in the teaching of history and in librarianship.

John taught history at various secondary schools in Oregon before moving to Seattle in 1975 to work at Shoreline Community College in the capacity of Technical Services and Research Librarian. He served the college for thirty plus years, working with students, faculty, staff, administration, and the community to help the college meet its complex and challenging mission. His patience and diplomacy were key characteristics of his tenure at Shoreline.

John was very active in the faculty union, putting its goals for the faculty as a whole above those of any individual. While serving on the Executive Board of the union, he actively promoted political and social activities on campus which helped inform the community about the fundamental importance of education. He also chaired the Federation's Committee on Political Education (COPE) which advocated working with the state legislature in funding higher education at the state level.

It was at Shoreline Community College that John met the love of his life, Phyllis Topham, a fellow faculty member on campus. John and Phyllis married on August 26, 2000. They shared a wonderful life together, both of them committed to family, friendships, and their careers in higher education. Before retiring himself in 2004, John and Phyllis took over the faculty's retirement party where the union and college celebrated the life achievements of fellow educators. John lost his beloved wife to ovarian cancer on January 9, 2014.

John was also preceded in death by two half-brother, Richard Marshall James and George Franklin James. He is survived by his step-children: Christian Becker (Dana) and Tamara Becker, his sister Margaret Kavounas (Edmond), half-sister Louise Greene, numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews, and his devoted dog, Scruffy.

One of John's great passions was to share his love of American classic films and popular music of the 30's and 40's. He taught numerous classes, before and after his retirement from Shoreline, for the Creative Retirement Institute at Edmond's Community College. His courses, which attracted an enthusiastic and loyal following, included different motion picture genres and musical styles within the context of contemporary American history.

In addition, John and Phyllis hosted many "movie nights" for friends and neighbors at their home in Seattle, often featuring the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The only regrettable instance, as John related, was when they hosted a viewing of Hitchcock's "The Birds" prior to serving a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Even more memorable to those closest to him was the fact that John was an unabashed aficionado of the music of Bing Crosby. There is no one in his family who can listen to Bing's rendition of "White Christmas" without thinking of their beloved "Uncle John".

A memorial service for John Van Cleve James will be held at St. Stephens Episcopal Church chapel, 4805 NE 45th St., Seattle, on Friday, March 31st at 3:00 p.m. with a reception following in the parish hall.

Donations in remembrance of John James can be made to Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Published in The Seattle Times from Mar. 9 to Mar. 10, 2017
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