James Holmes Straughan, longtime resident of Lopez Island, Washington, died Saturday, May 5, in Burlington. He was 96. James and surviving wife Miki spent nearly three decades on Lopez, in a house on Whiskey Hill he built himself. They were active in the Golf Club, and James served on the boards of the Lopez Senior Center and Friends of Puget Sound.
Born to a strict evangelical family, James was an apt student who soon developed a taste for adventure novels and jokes of all kinds. He enlisted in the Army in 1943 despite his family’s pacifism. He instructed fighter pilots in the Link Trainer and was in Officers Training School when the war ended.
With the GI Bill, James got his doctorate in psychology from Indiana University. He married Joan Lauer of Buffalo, New York and the young family moved west where he taught at the University of Montana, University of Oregon and Western Washington State College. He was a proud and loving father of Baird, Jennifer and Ben, whom he introduced to the beauties of hiking in the Cascades and Olympic mountains.
After a divorce and several lonely years, he met Miriam Ghormley Isbell in 1971. Within two weeks they decided to marry, and from then on they were inseparable. She was the woman of his dreams, and he was a loving stepfather to her five children – Janet, Colleen, Lyle, Dawn and Doug. Miki and James moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, where he completed his career practicing clinical psychology at the Veteran’s Administration hospital.
James was a voracious reader with a precise memory. In particular, he was a well-informed atheist who quoted chapter and verse to make his points. He didn’t believe in an afterlife. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he was asked his thoughts on dying. He replied, “I agree with the wise man who said, I want to pass away like my father, who died peacefully in his sleep, and not screaming in terror like the other people in the car with him.” When pressed for a more serious answer, he responded with another joke, which we won’t print here.
James is survived by Miki, all eight children and many grand and great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lopez Senior Center or Friends of Puget Sound.
Please send your condolences to the family (or share a story or joke!) at http://www.qeepr.com/profile/BairdStraughan1/.