JAMES "Jim" CHILD (1925 - 2019)

  • "Jim was a bright, warm, and welcoming light here at All..."
    - Greg Lebel
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    - N. S.

CHILD James Robert Child "Jim" Born in Troy, New York on January 29, 1925, and passed away peacefully on October 29, 2019, with his two daughters at his side. Jim had an astonishing ability in linguistics, which strongly guided the direction of his life. His early acquisition of Chippewa words and phrases (at age 5) during a family vacation in Canada prefaced a longtime fascination with and career in linguistics. He studied German, Russian, Latin, and Greek while at Kent School in Connecticut. After graduating, Jim served in the US Army with the 3rd Infantry Division in Europe from 1944 to 1946, working as an Army interpreter in Germany after the war ended. He graduated from Princeton in 1949 with a major in German language and literature and a minor in Russian language. He subsequently earned a Master's Degree at the University of Pennsylvania before leaving academia for government service. Jim worked many years for the Department of Defense in the Washington DC area, in theoretical and applied linguistics. He taught reading and grammar, in Bulgarian, Czech, Indonesian, Portuguese, Turkish, German, and Russian. Later in his career, he helped to develop instruments for government com- munities that measured language learning performance, and standardized methods for translators. During his career, he worked in some 27 different languages. His passion for linguistics meant many hours at his desk at home as well as work, poring over both modern and ancient manuscripts. He spent decades, in particular, analyzing and translating a 15th century handwritten and illustrated codex known as the Voynich manuscript, working with a colleague into his 90s to create and update a website. While teaching a course in Indonesian, he became acquainted with his future wife, Margaret. They shared a profound love of literature and a mutual dedication to their careers in teaching and government service. They had three children, Peter, Liza and Anne, and Jim was a devoted husband throughout their long marriage. At home Jim could often be found reciting poetry, in English or some foreign tongue, while washing the dishes or mowing the lawn. His children fondly remember him reading bedtime stories aloud, brilliantly bringing many classic characters to life. They also share fond memories of outdoor adventures with their father: learning to play softball, throw a football, and ride bikes. Always an avid sports fan, Jim was thrilled that the Nationals were in the World Series this October. "Go Nats!" As a man of deep faith, Jim was devoted to the Episcopal church and his faith community at All Souls Episcopal Church in Washington DC. He had a rich spiritual and social life, due to his devotion to study, even temperament, and sincere interest in the lives and well-being of others. He continued to make diverse and new friendships throughout the course of his life. He is survived by his wife Margaret, his sister Dale, his daughters Elizabeth and Anne, their husbands Jacques and "Trapper," his grandson Matthew and his wife Gina, and two great grandchildren, Jackson and Emily. He will be dearly missed by all. The family requests that donations in memory of Jim be directed to All Souls Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave, Washington DC, 20008, where a private memorial service will be held.
Published in The Washington Post on Nov. 6, 2019
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