James Robert Rettig

November 11, 1950August 17, 2022
Obituary of James Robert Rettig


Nelsen Williamsburg

James “Jim” Robert Rettig of Williamsburg, VA died peacefully at his home on August 17, 2022. He was preceded in death by his parents, Philip G. Rettig and Ann Cusack Rettig, and his grandson, Samuel Andrew Wallace. Originally from Northbrook, IL, Jim graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL in 1968. He was awarded both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from Marquette University. In 1975 he earned a Master of Library Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His subsequent career as a reference librarian took him to six different states—Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, and Maryland. Jim and his family settled in Williamsburg when he became the Assistant Dean of University Libraries at Earl Gregg Swem Library at the college of William and Mary in 1988. His most recent position was at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, where he served as the Dean of Libraries. Upon his retirement in 2017, Jim returned to Williamsburg full-time and became a devoted student of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the College of William and Mary, taking classes geared toward retirees that piqued his interest and sustained his insatiable lifelong desire to learn. In addition to his work at seven different universities, Jim spent his career as an active and involved member of the American Library Association, where he maintained deep and abiding relationships with his fellow librarians across the United States, working together to improve and expand the profession of librarianship and information services. He served on a variety of ALA committees from the early days of his career in 1979, eventually campaigning for and being elected to the presidency of the organization in 2008-2009. After his presidential term ended, his devotion to the ALA was evident in his willingness to continue to serve on high level committees and task forces as an emeritus figure. Jim married his high school sweetheart, Monica, in 1973. Jim was the kind of husband who would come home with a cable spool to refinish and use as a table when you were young newlyweds without much money to spare for new furniture, and also the kind of husband who would just willingly go along with all your plans to renovate your kitchen or expand your deck when you were finally making your forever home look just the way you dreamed. He was the kind of husband who would spend months telling you that no, you absolutely didn’t need a kitten, and then surprise you on your fiftieth birthday with a Maine Coon kitten so authentic that she was born in Maine and flew to Virginia to join your family. He demonstrated his thoughtfulness and devotion throughout their 49 years of marriage when he would write Monica little love notes—first in cards and pieces of notepaper, and eventually via email and text. A true librarian, he was always on the cutting edge of love note communication technology. Together, Jim and Monica raised three children—Chris, Tony, and Katie. Jim was the kind of father who always had a project to work on and recruit you to assist with—of which yardwork was definitely the worst. He was the person who taught his children to love books (naturally!), to type, to check the oil in the car, and to properly cite your sources in your written work. Despite his unspoken disdain for heights and his very outspoken disdain for all things tacky, he begrudgingly put lights up on some of the tall bushes and trees around the family home every year at Christmas, and he could be counted on to return from a trip to an ALA conference with a bag of peanuts from the airplane to leave next to the dinner plate of one of his children. He once went to the trouble to unscrew a U-bend pipe to retrieve a lost tooth for the Tooth Fairy to collect later that night. That pipe dripped for as long as the family lived in that house, but at least when the Tooth Fairy arrived she had a tooth to exchange for her payment. Despite Jim’s general indifference to athletics, he attended a ridiculous number of field hockey games, basketball games, cheerleading competitions, and Nutcracker performances. Nothing triggered his pride (and confusion) more than his kids doing something well that he knew not how to do at all. Jim is survived by his wife, Monica, their children Chris (Garrett), Tony (Katie), and Katie (Mike), his brother Phil, his sister Mary Ann, and nine sweet and rambunctious grandchildren, all of whom had the great joy of being read to on the lap of a professional bookworm. A visitation for Jim will be held on Thursday, September 1 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at Nelsen Funeral Home. His funeral will be held on Friday, September 2 at 12:00 at St. Bede Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Williamsburg House of Mercy or the American Library Association. Works Cited: Jim’s resume Stories from his wife The recollections of his youngest child

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