Monday, November 13, 2023
5:30 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)
Joseph F. James, Sr. Obituary
September 12, 1937 - November 7, 2023
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Rev. Dr. Joseph F. James, Sr, a beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, friend, veteran, member of the Roman Catholic clergy, executive administrator, university professor, competitive athlete and practicing psychologist. Joe peacefully departed this world and entered into the heavenly paradise on November 7, 2023 at the age of 86 in Evans, GA, surrounded by his loving wife, Patty and family.
Joe was born on September 12, 1937 in Oglesby, IL to Joseph A. James and Anna T. (Bawiec) James. He had a younger sister, JoAnna who died in early infancy. He grew up in rural Illinois with his older brothers Gene and Jerry (“Jesse”), where he developed his athletic competitiveness, intellectual curiosity and strong work ethic. Joe’s sense of purpose and moral meaning were cultivated early in his life by his Catholic faith and community. His maternal uncle Fr. Ed Bawiec was a special source of inspiration and spiritual guidance for Joe throughout his life. Fr. Ed maintained close ties to Joe's rich Polish heritage including a verification that Joe was related to Karol Wojtyla - Pope Saint John Paul II. Joe consistently exhibited a compassion for and service to others driven by a deep sense of empathy, particularly for those in most need. His was a life well-lived, and an example of one who was always ready to be the first to love especially those who were too often dismissed by society as the least-lovable.
Joe attended Oglesby public schools, maintaining over the years a connection to his grade school graduating class of 1952. He attended Loras College in Dubuque, IA where he was captain of multiple collegiate sports teams, served as president of the Class of 1960, and earned a BA in Political Science & Secondary Education. He went on to earn an MA in Education & Psychology from Roosevelt University (Chicago) in 1964, and then later a Ph.D. in Special Education & Psychology from Kent State University (Ohio) in 1977.
Joe married the love of his life, Patricia Ann Bognanno, on New Year’s Eve 1960, just four days after becoming a commissioned officer in the US Navy. He met Patty while she was a freshman at Clark College. Joe’s first couple of years in college were spent in the undergraduate seminary at Loras College. His seminary classmate was Frank Bognanno with whom Joe remained close friends even after transferring from the seminary program to lay college studies. During Joe’s senior year of college, Frank Bognanno introduced Joe to his younger sister, Patty. This was the spark that turned into 64 years of love between Patty and Joe. Msgr. Frank Bognanno would become for Joe more than a brother-in-law, but also a best friend, confidant, spiritual advisor, source of much joy, and belly-aching laughter. Throughout their marriage Joe and Patty were inseparable lovers, partners and parents, always striving to live up to their Sacrament of Marriage which bonded them to God, to each other, to their seven children, to their Church, and to their community. Patty was his life and they remained hand-in-hand through their last day together on this temporal plane.
Throughout his life, Joe was known for a commitment to his faith, family and country. Joe began his long career in service to others as a commissioned officer in the US Navy. Before leaving active service in 1966, he reached the rank of full Lieutenant and participated in several global events of historic importance including the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and landing some of the first U.S. Marines on the shores of Vietnam. As a civilian professional, Joe continued his service to the most vulnerable and in need as Superintendent of the Stark County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities, retiring from that position in 1993 after 24 years. Joe’s dedication to the mental, physical, social well-being and dignity of the handicapped and their families resulted in many positions of leadership in Ohio and appointments to several USPresidential Commissions for the Mentally Handicapped. He also served individuals, couples and families through his Psychology & Counseling private practice in Stark County and later in Preble County.
He was a mentor and educator for many mental health professionals over the years. He proudly served as a professor of Psychology at Miami University (Ohio), Indiana University East, as a paraprofessional for Richmond Community Schools, and an active member of the Rotary Club (Eaton, OH). Joe’s 45+ years of dedicated professional work as a psychologist had an immeasurable impact on the lives of countless people and communities, leaving a lasting legacy of care and compassion influenced by professional wisdom and personal ethics, all governed by his ultimate purpose to love God by serving his neighbor.
Furthering his legacy of service, Joe was ordained a Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, part of the first ordained Diaconate class in the Diocese of Youngstown in 1977. For many years he served as a Deacon to the people of St. Paul’s Church in North Canton, OH, and then later for the Richmond Community Parishes in Indiana. His ordained ministry was to serve anyone in need through counseling, marriage preparation, care of the sick and dying, and administering the Sacraments of Marriage and Baptism. He found particular joy and privilege over the years in the baptizing of his youngest child “PJ” (named after Patty & Joe) and many of his grandchildren. Joe officiated at the weddings of several of his own children. Joe and Patty together were partners in various ministry efforts including the Civil Rights Movement and Post-Vatican II efforts to foster ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Joe and Patty humbly but with great enthusiasm accepted leadership roles in the Catholic Cursillo Movement, the Catholic Charismatic Movement, the Catholic Parish Renewal Movement, Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Family Encounter. They remained active together as Volunteers in the worldwide Catholic lay ecclesial community, The Work of Mary, also known as the Focolare Movement. Joe also served as a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order. Joe’s intellect, wisdom, kindness, and self-deprecating humor made him a trusted and cherished community leader, minister, educator, administrator and counselor.
Joe took great joy with Patty throughout the eventful years of raising their seven children. Joe was the leader of “The James Gang.” He also humbled himself especially when originating his unique but essential “supporting role” as a member of the James Family “Joy of the Lord Clown Troop” performing in church halls and nursing homes across North Eastern Ohio for over a period of ten years. He will always be remembered - particularly by the friends of his children - for his signature way of answering every phone call: “Praise the Lord!” Joe also cherished the solitary moments he was able to capture over the years through his training for triathlons, marathons and in competition as a national Senior Olympian.
Joe’s last years presented him with challenges from progressive Alzheimer’s disease. He met those growing limitations of mind and body with the same identifying traits that endeared him to all who knew him - serenity, strength, compassion, patient endurance, and prayerful acceptance. Joe’s primary purpose in life remained undeterred to the end - to love and share everything he had with his wife Patty. Theirs was a reciprocal love to the end. Throughout these last years, Joe also knew constant care, safety and dignity due to the immense love and devotion of his daughter Anna. She welcomed Joe and Patty into the Corulli family home making it the James family hearth.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents and his sister and brothers, by his youngest son Christian Patrick James, his son-in-law Mark Corulli, and his niece Mary Bognanno-Rauch. Joe is survived by his loving wife Patricia (Bognanno) James, brother-in-law Mario Bognanno (Peggy), brother-in-law Msgr. Frank Bognanno, son Michael (Julie) James, daughter Anna (Mark) Corulli, son Joseph (Larry) James Jr, son Frank James, daughter-in-law Kim (Christian) James, daughter Ruth (Stephen) Kelke, daughter Patricia (Ben) Crawford, fourteen grandchildren, four great grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and extended family and friends.
A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 1:00 P.M. at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church with Monsignor Frank Bognanno as celebrant. The service will be live streamed at https://www.st-teresa.com/funeral. Interment will be on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 at 1:00 P.M. at Glendale Cemetery, 4909 University Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50311.
The family will receive friends on Monday, November 13, 2023 from 5:30 until 7:00 P.M. with a vigil beginning 7:00 P.M. at Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA 30907 (706) 364-8484. Please sign the guestbook at www.thomaspoteet.com