James Traer

James Frederick Traer

Monday, August 1st, 1938 - Friday, November 8th, 2019
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It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of James F. Traer on Friday, November 8, 2019. He leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Maribeth K. Traer, brother Robert Traer (Nancy Traer) of Claremont, CA, sister Mary Edelman (John Edelman, deceased) of Lexington, MA, three daughters, Mary Traer (James Braman) of Arlington, MA, Anne Traer (Russ Robar) of Medford, MA, and Jeanne Traer Townsend (Frank Townsend) of Marion, MA. He also leaves behind three beautiful grandchildren, Eleanor Townsend, Mary Townsend and Harrison Braman, as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Born on August 1, 1938, Jim’s life was filled with music from the start. His mother nurtured his piano and singing skills during his childhood in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As a bright-eyed, curious learner, he excelled in both music and academics. In high school he added the clarinet and saxophone to his musical repertoire, and paved the way for academic accolades, receiving his B.A. Magna Cum Laude from the College of Wooster, his J.D. Cum Laude from the University of Michigan Law School, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in European History from the University of Michigan. Along the way, he served in the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, earned the Phi Alpha Theta History Prize, and achieved both Fulbright and Alliance Française Fellowships to study in Paris, France.

Jim transitioned his desire to learn into a passion for teaching, and moved his young family to Clinton, New York, to become a professor of French History at Hamilton College. Teaching led to academic administration, as Jim moved to various colleges across the country. His career in higher education included roles at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan, Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and culminated in serving as the President of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

Retirement brought to Jim the opportunity to continue his teaching career through interim positions at Kendall College in Evanston, Illinois, Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, and finally North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. As his work in the field of education slowed, his involvement in local community and volunteer groups expanded. Jim and Maribeth enjoyed 18 years as active members of the Jamestown, Rhode Island, community. Jim served as president of the Jamestown Community Chorus, the local Rotary Club and served as an advisor for the Central Baptist Church, of which he was an active member.

In 2018, Jim and Maribeth moved to the Pinehills in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to better support Jim’s health care needs; for almost ten years, Jim staved off the clouds of dementia. We are forever grateful to the staff of Laurelwood’s Avita unit and to Beacon Hospice for helping him find dignity in his last year, and in the end, for helping him to pass gracefully from this life.

A memorial service will be held in Plymouth, Massachusetts, at The Church of the Pilgrimage at 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 16th, 2019. A second remembrance service will be celebrated at the Central Baptist Church in Jamestown, Rhode Island, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Jim’s memory to the charity of your choice or to the College of Wooster.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, November 16th, 2019 | 11:00am
    Saturday, November 16th, 2019 11:00am
    Church of the Pilgrimage
    8 Town Square
    Plymouth, MA 02360
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Private Condolence

D Donahue

Posted at 06:12pm
Jim Traer made French history fun. Super teacher. Passionate about the classroom. Popular professor at Hamilton College. Classes overbooked. Wonderful memories. Still enjoy reading about the Paris Commune of 1871 and it is 45 years ago that I was his student. D Donahue, Hamilton '77

Walter Roettger

Posted at 09:06pm
Jim was an enormously kind man with a deep devotion to students and learning. It was my privilege to serve with and learn from him at Westminster. He shared success. He shouldered burdens. He was unfailing in his loyalty and deeply principled. He knew when when help was needed and when it was not, and he honored both. He was devoted to his family and to Meribeth and proud of their accomplishments; he knew that this love and respect were returned. Jim had a hearty laugh and a great sense of humor; he knew how to make those with him comfortable. Peggy and I will miss those good times and rich memories. We send our deepest condolences and love to the Traers.

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