James Lawson

12 September, 19265 July, 2021

Jim died in his 95th year at home with Glen, Julie and Stephen by his side.

Beloved husband of Glen (nee Allen). Dear father and father- in- law of Julie (Derek Drekic), Stephen (Aaron Pollard), Jon Arno (Amy Freedman). Loving, adoring grandfather of Saul Leah, Samuel James, Asher Burhans, Joseph Harry. Jim’s death marks the end of a family of nine siblings of which he was the second youngest. Predeceased by Birdsall, Townsend, Adrian, Langdon, Holland, Jean, Cornie and Ivan. He will be missed by his many nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews and extended family and friends.

Jim was born on September 12, 1926, in Albany, New York, the son of Ella Vesta Burhans and Palmer Cornelius Lawson. He came from a Hudson Valley Dutch family going back over 400 years in New York State with other roots in the Palatine Germans, Mayflower English and Mohican Native Americans. The family were long time Quakers, but Jim and younger brother Ivan attended the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albany for want of a proper Meeting House. He became an Episcopalian in his twenties. He has been a participant in the Anglican Communion throughout his adulthood serving as warden at St. Luke’s Parish, Hamilton. At the time of his death, he was a member of Christ’s Church Cathedral. His life was guided by his faith, grounded less in concerns about doctrine than in the practice of what he understood as its fundamental teachings: hospitality, generosity, openness, sharing, peacefulness, forgiveness, the love of the other, whoever the other might be. He was a fine storyteller with a generous eye for the humor, sadness and surprise in stories from his own life and in the lives of those he met. His great love was music. He had learned to play the guitar. He read widely, loved good movies, good food, and good company.

Jim attended primary and secondary school in Albany, New York, joining the American Army in 1944 at the age of 17, after completing high school. He was in the 393rd regiment, 99th Division in active service in Europe from late winter until the end of the war in May 1945. He was then in the Army of Occupation mainly in Austria until he returned home for discharge in August, 1946. He completed his bachelor’s degree and teaching studies at the State University of New York, Albany, graduating in 1950. He then went to Germany where he studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Tubingen from 1950 to 1953 returning for post graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, Maryland. In 1955 he joined the German Department at McMaster University where he taught language and literature for the next 36 years, retiring in 1991. He was a much- loved teacher who appreciated his students and was appreciated by them. His classes were marked by much discussion, the careful perusal of the text, lots of written comments on work done, singing German folksongs, laughter and kindness. Over the years he translated poems, stories and books, some along with his good friend, former student and colleague, Gerald Chapple.

Over the years Jim suffered many health problems, beginning in childhood with severe blinding migraines headaches. He had bypass heart surgery in 1981 and 2003, a heart attack in the mid-nineties and 2 strokes, 2001 and 2018 this last causing him to lose his vision in the left visual field. He ruptured the quads on both legs at 2 different times developing an infection on the last occasion. This resulted in 3 months in hospital, surgeries, almost a full year of antibiotics with a constant threat of amputation. Finally, his kneecap was removed, and his leg saved but he could only walk now with a walker. He was a diabetic. Over these last 4 and half years he required daily nursing having developed serious ulcers on both lower legs. Through all the years of ill health his fortitude, resiliency, generosity, good humor and lack of complaint, sustained those around him.

We are grateful to all those who cared for Jim, treated sustained, and supported him and us through all years, but particularly in these last months: Dr. Zoe Del Bel Belluz, Dr. Alison Montgomery. Your care and kindness will not be forgotten, nor will the care and kindnesses of our nurses from St. Joseph’s particularly Vida, Maureen, Denise, Megan and Cathy. And you Michelle wherever you are. Thanks to Damien, Magda, Natalie, to the staff at Whitney Pharmacy and to the Clergy at Christs Church: Peter, Sharynn, Tim, Ralph and to the Cathedral community. Thanks to our neighbors especially Lorraine, Greta, Corey, but all of you, for your offers and gestures of help.

And, of course, thanks to all our friends old and new. It makes such a difference to have such friends. You know who you are.

And thank you grandson, Sam. You accompanied us through this last hard year living in this house, doing your studies and your work. You took care of your grandpa and lifted him up in every way. Blessings.

Jim was cremated. His funeral will be held on Friday, October 15th at 11am at Christ’s Church Cathedral. If you wish to remember Jim through a charitable donation, please donate to a charity of your choice, or to a charity of particular importance to Jim. He would be honored by donations to St. Mathews House in Hamilton but also to any charity that cares for those who are victims of war, particularly children, for refugees, for the homeless, mentally ill or handicapped, for those who suffer discrimination because of race, creed or gender. He was much loved; he will be much missed. Eternal Rest grant unto him, light perpetual shine upon him.



James Lawson

have a memory or condolence to add?


27 August 2021

Jim Lawson was a a giant of human wit and decency, a dear and treasured colleague for over half a century, the centre of treasured communions featuring JD and old cheddar. My deepest condolences to Glenn and family.

Christa Schlechta

7 August 2021

Just learned of Jim‘s passing. My sincere condolences to Glen and family.

I have only good memories of Jim. Especially, I never forgot the musical send off I received from Jim and Gerhard Teuscher at the occasion of my retirement in 1973 from the German Department at Mac.

Christa Schlechta

Anne Mitchell

30 July 2021

Glenn and Family, please accept my most sincere condolences. It was my great pleasure to meet you and James this past year, and an honour to assist you. May Gods light shine upon you all. Rest In Peace James.
Anne Mitchell,
Alpha Laboratories

Larry and Ford

30 July 2021

Dear Glen - Back in 2003 when we welcomed folks for the first time to Snuggle Inn Cottage, you were two of our first guests in St. Marys, and each year after that, we looked forward to seeing you, to share stories, and build a friendship that we treasure today. With an amazing sense of humor, Jim shared your wonderful gift for finding the joy and humor in so many situations that others would feel overwhelmed by. Every year, we would have our visits, sometimes inside, and sometimes out on the patio, and we would catch up on our families, our lives, our trials and tribulations, and of course, memories of days gone by that would continue to bring us closer. You are always in our hearts on on our minds. We will treasure Jim's book, and all of our wonderful visits with the two of you. Glen, as soon as you are able to visit, we will love to see you. We will share a toast to celebrate the life of an amazing man. Be sure to keep in touch. Much love, Barb and Larry

Clare Stewart

14 July 2021

I was very sad to read of Prof. Lawson's death. I had the privilege of studying under him from 1965-1969. He was one of my favourite professors. My classmates and I greatly appreciated his sense of humour and his method of teaching.
I was sorry to read of his many health trials in the past few years. Now he can rest in peace. May light perpetual shine upon him.

Clare Stewart

Suzanne (Seavey) Craven

13 July 2021

Dear Lawson Family,

I was very saddened to read of Jim's death. He was truly a favourite German professor for me at McMaster (69-73). The Herr Doktor Lawson was such an amazing teacher, and well loved because of his wonderful spirited personality, his openness, and clear love of teaching.

He encouraged me in a life-changing opportunity to study at Tubingen University in 71-72. I well remember his coming for dinner to my parents' home in Oakville to assure them of their only child's safety and security in Tubingen. He was my advisor for studies there, and a great support and encourager.

I was so touched to read about his faith in the obituary, because after 24 years in another career, I became an Anglican priest and was was involved with the Cathedral many times throughout my vocation, retiring in 2018. God has amazing plans for each of us, and although Jim had his share of challenges, I read of his wonderful family, his God given faith and joie de vivre and the blessing he has been to so many.

Oh - I also babysat for you and your home was such a delightful refuge from university residence! I loved your children - all adorable, and your home-made chocolate chip cookies were irresistible!

May God bless you with comfort and peace in the knowledge of Jim's well deserved rest in everlasting life.

Fran Kirsh

12 July 2021

To the entire Lawson Family,

We are deeply saddened by the loss of your dear Jim. We met him before Amy and JonArno married and enjoyed many special events with the entire family. Conversations with Jim were always lively and we remember him as a man of warmth and kind spirit with a sharp and curious intellect. Please accept our heartfelt sympathy for your loss. We know that he will remain alive in the hearts of those who knew him.
Sending love to all of you,
Fran and Gerry Kirsh

Joan Nathanson (formerly Ledger)

11 July 2021

I first met Jim when he was faculty adviser at McMaster to the campus World University Service Committee. He was a good-humoured, respectful, supportive, friendly staff member who was easy to work with. Many years passed. It was my good fortune just a few years ago to sit across the table from him at an Alumni Reunion in what was the old Buttery. He was in a wheelchair, but still his friendly, interested self. Many old friends came up to greet him, evidence of deep, warm ties that had stood the test of time. What a privilege to reconnect, even briefly, with someone who lived his faith and contributed so much good will in the process.
Thank you, Glen and family, for sharing details of Jim's involvements in our community over so many years. I celebrate his life of faith and service with you. May you find much comfort in deep memories and the knowledge that love never ends.

Scott Pasternack

10 July 2021

What a remarkable obituary of a man who lived such a full life. My family are friends of JonArno and his family through Congregation Darchei Noam. I can see JonArno in the photo and the story of Jim. May you always remain connected and may your memories of Jim be a blessing to all the Lawson family.

Horace Williams

10 July 2021

My deepest condolences for your loss.
From one U S Veteran to another : Thank you for your service to a grateful nation. May you rest easy in Valhalla- where heroes live forever.
Horace Williams member American Legion Post 18 Burlington

From the Family