ROBERT E. JAMES aka BOB JAMES was born and raised in Newark, NJ. He attended Newark public schools, and at 6’7” participated in various athletic activities, specifically, basketball and, track and field. He was also a talented artist. Bob graduated from Arts High School, in Newark, NJ, and went on to attend and graduate from William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ, where he majored in Art Education and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts. After graduating from college, he went on to become an art teacher at Peshine Avenue School in Newark, NJ. His love of the never-ending energy and diversity of New York City also led him to become an art teacher at Harlem Preparatory School. Over the years, Bob’s work was included in several art exhibits. The last one was in 1971 at the Newark Museum and at that exhibit, the museum purchased one of his woodblock prints. His collection dates from 1959 to 1971.
Bob and I were married in 1970 and a few years later, he developed an unknown neuro-muscular disorder that prevented him from continuing his artistic pursuits. His condition progressed and by the time he was confined to a wheelchair, we had a two-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son. However, this did not stop him from being fully involved in the family and despite his limited mobility, he figured out alternative ways to get things done. Bob spent a lot of time with his family (immediate and extended). He was active in our children’s education and always helped them with their school projects. Bob had a mastery of tools and had a large collection (he would have me stop the car and pick up that hammer!). He even taught our children how to use various tools before they were 12 years old. Both of our fathers were also well versed with tools so there was no shortage. We may have been his substitute for his arms and legs but he always provided the directions, even in the car.
Bob enjoyed music of all kinds especially Jazz and the Blues and was always tuned into his favorite stations, especially WBGO (88.3 FM). Radio time alternated between health programs, political discussions, and historical events. He appreciated a stimulating conversation on any topic and was an avid reader. Bob’s television viewing consisted of documentaries and National Geographic-type programming and he spent an enormous amount of time learning about world cultures. He traveled the world vicariously through a wide variety of documentaries. He liked game shows as well and one of his favorites was Jeopardy also movie time was always full of action. He was an outstanding chess player and Bob (Baba to the children) taught our son how to play at six years old. Since Baba was a sports enthusiast, our daughter spent more time with him watching sports. He enjoyed football, basketball, soccer, and golf with Tiger Woods. His interest in these activities continued throughout his lifetime. Bob’s friendly manner, insight, and knowledge about various subjects kept the flow of information, as well as house projects with our children and me very interesting. Bob was fortunate to experience the adventures, growing pains, and pleasures of not only our children but his grandchildren as well.
Although Bob was 6’7”, he always exuded a calm nature. When children came up to him they would easily engage in a conversation that would put him into the Uncle Bob category. We always talked about everything and anything, usually late into the night, after everything and everybody settled down (he was a “night person”). Many times, our talks lead to unstoppable and uncontrollable laughter. Bob had no fear prior to nor during his use of the wheelchair and during our 45 years of marriage, I always felt safe in his presence.
Bob passed away in 2015. Recalling our family experiences with much love and appreciation for Bob, we now introduce and share his creative expressions for others to enjoy.
By Betty James
Also, see The Artist Remembered