12 September, 1926 – 5 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.
Celebration of Life
Friday, 15 October , 2021
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
9 July 2021
Dear Glen and family,
I am so sorry to hear about Jim. What a darling man! Whenever I saw him at the Cathedral, he made my heart skip. He always greeted me with that sparkling smile and those twinkling eyes. He made me feel special.
I am deeply sorry for your loss.
With sympathy and with love
Michael and Kim Johnston
9 July 2021
Roz and Jerry ZIKMAN send our sincere condolences to JonArno and Amy and the Lawson Family.
9 July 2021
I remember Jim so well as a caring and supportive professor who had a great sense of humour during my time at McMaster. He was my thesis supervisor who gave me much good advice as I made my way through the writing process in 1985. I am so sorry for the loss of your husband, father and grandfather. May your memories of Jim provide you with comfort during this difficult time. Sending condolences to the family.
Best regards, Julia Bourdon (Ritter)
9 July 2021
Dear Jim, as the special friend who never took German but was a part of your special evenings with wine & song - we all bless you and Glen for your lasting friendship to me and the Thomas girls in Ohio & Minnesota. You are an example of loyalty, caring and enthusiasm for life that we should all emulate. I cherish the “Festschrift ...” booklet from your 75th birthday, and I hope you will write another one from heaven. Love & prayers, Marg
8 July 2021
Dear JonArno, Amy, Saul, Asher and JoJo,
Our condolences on the loss of your father, father-in-law and grandfather.
We are thinking of you at this difficult time. May his memory be for a blessing.
Rochelle, Larry & Lana
8 July 2021
Dear JonArno and family,
So sorry to hear of the passing of your dad. Sending my personal condolences and those on behalf of First Interfaith Out of the Cold. I hope you can find comfort in the memories of him and with the support of family and friends.
8 July 2021
Dear JonArno and Amy and family, Our deepest sympathy on the loss of your father and grandfather. With our warm best wishes, Debbie Moldofsky and Jerry Williams
Tess and Mark Atin
8 July 2021
Dear JonArno and Amy and family,
Sincere condolences on the loss of your father and father in law. May his memory be for a blessing. Tess and Mark
Marlee and Milton Verskin
8 July 2021
We never knew your father but we do know you and believe that to produce a son like you he must have been a very special person. We are with you in your grief. May you be comforted.
Marlee and Milton Verskin
7 July 2021
Jim was a wonderful man. Great intellect. Great humour.
Many fond memories from student days.
My condolences to Amy, JonArno and all the family.
May your grief be tempered by good memories.
Judy KATZ HOWARD
7 July 2021
Dear JonArno and Amy, so sorry for your loss. Sending my sincere condolences to you and the kids. May you be spared further sorrow.