Dr. William H. “Bill” James, age 104, of North Branford, Connecticut, died peacefully on August 19, 2014. Blessed with long life, good health, and a strong work ethic, William was possibly Connecticut’s oldest military veteran, serving in May this year as Grand Marshall of his town’s Memorial Day events, at which he gave a speech. He leaves a record of accomplishment, drive, intelligence, and widespread friends and affiliations. Born in 1910 to John and May James, William came of pioneer stock and spent his childhood on rural farms. Starting in the 1920’s, he and his mother traveled to Europe where each pursued educational opportunities, with William studying at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, before returning to the U.S. to attend and graduate from Brown University in 1933.
William held a variety of jobs before, during and after college. He began his professional career during the Depression, working as a public school teacher in New Canaan CT. Three years later he switched to the school system in Easton CT, where he began as a Teaching Principal in 1936 and advanced to increasing responsibility until interrupted by WWII, for which he volunteered and served in the Air Force (chiefly in India, China, and on Tinian Island), ultimately retiring as a Major. Returning home after WWII, William resumed his work with the Easton schools while using the GI Bill to obtain his Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University.
William also married after the war, taking as his bride in 1950 the former Virginia Stowell of New Britain, CT, daughter of Austin and Doris Stowell of that city. Promoted to Superintendent of Schools for Easton in 1953, William in 1958 relocated to the larger school system of Branford CT to become Superintendent of Schools there. It was at this time that he, Virginia, and their daughter Hillery moved to Northford CT where Hillery attended public schools and Virginia taught in the Wallingford school system. In 1966 William became an Associate Director of the Connecticut Commission for Higher Education, from which he retired in 1977. He had also begun part-time college teaching in 1949 and continued until 1993 as an adjunct professor for several universities. A long-time writer, William wrote newspaper columns during the 1930’s, writing about political and economic affairs, and he is the author of several books: “The Monetarists and the Current Crisis” (1975), “The Monetarists and the Continuing Crisis” (1997) and “The Monetarists and the Evolving Crisis: Wake Up, Americans, We are Losing our Great Nation” (2011). From 2011 forward, William published occasional commentaries on public affairs. Besides writing, William stayed active with educational organization, Rotary International, the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution), the American Legion, and the VFW, among others. He was also an avid follower of local, national, and world events, enjoying several newspapers each day. In addition to his work and writing, William enjoyed small-town America and invariably became “Bill” during his many decades of visiting Lyme CT, Halifax VT, or New Harbor, ME. Some of his greatest pleasures were talking with friends, meeting new people, telling stories, working outdoors, or enjoying nature and wildlife. Well remembering his own struggles with early poverty, the chaotic ’20’s, the Depression, and WWII, Bill was sympathetic to those who struggle against forces larger than themselves; at the same time, he was a strong advocate of hard work and continuous self-improvement, believing that such effort gave any individual his or her best chance for a good life. William was predeceased by his sister, Lucy Merrill James; by his father, John James; by grandson Yoni Chung; and by his mother, Dr. May Hall James, who became a prominent Connecticut educator, author of “The Educational History of Old Lyme Connecticut 1635-1935,” and a former Dean at Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University). William is survived by his wife, Dr. Virginia James of North Branford; by their daughter, Hillery, and son-in-law Chris Chung, of New Smyrna Beach, FL; and by his grandson, Doron Chung, of Sanford, Fl. He is also remembered by numerous former students, associates, neighbors, and extended family members in multiple communities.
Family and friends are invited to go directly to the Northford Congregational Church on Saturday morning, August 23rd at 10:00 to attend a funeral service and are also invited to attend the committal services immediately following with full military honors in Northford Cemetery. The visiting hours will be Friday, August 22nd from 4 to 7 pm at the North Haven Funeral Home, 36 Washington Avenue, North Haven. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to either the Northford Congregational Church Steeple Fund (Old Post Rd, Northford CT, 06472) or the Maine Sea Coast Mission Society (http://www.seacoastmission.org/).