HOLDEN - James S. Demetry of Holden, 84, died on June 24, 2021, at the Jewish Healthcare Center, Worcester, after a long illness. He was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, son of Bessie (Giftos) and Steve Demetry. He leaves his wife Susan Stafford and three daughters and sons-in-law: Sara Demetry and Arthur Jennings, Chrysanthe Demetry and Richard Vaz, and Athena Demetry and Steven Bumgardner. He was pre-deceased by his first wife Sally Weidlein in 1993 and his sister Theo. He also leaves nephews Steve, Jack, Bill, and Jeff DeWeese; brother-in-law Donald Weidlein, his wife Heidi, and nephews Dan and Mike; and several cousins in the Giftos family.
In 1954, he graduated from Pittsfield High School’s Technical College Prep program. Pittsfield at that time was a General Electric town; Jim and all members of his family worked for GE at one time or another. His choice for higher education was WPI, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a BS in 1958 and his MS degree in 1960, both in electrical engineering. The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, invited him to join their staff as a civilian faculty fellow while continuing his graduate studies in electrical engineering. He was awarded his PhD in 1964, was invited to join the faculty as Assistant Professor, and remained at the NPGS until 1971. In those six years he was engaged in consulting activities for Litton Laboratories at the U. S. Army’s Fort Ord research station, and for the U. S. Navy in an evaluation team for a troubled ship-borne radar system. He was also active with the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, in which he served as Conservation Chairman for several terms. In that capacity, he laid the groundwork for the formation of the Monterey County Regional Park District. Dedicated regional conservationists brought this effort to fruition a few years after Jim and his family moved from California back to the Bay State in 1971. That move was the response to an offer from Jim’s Alma Mater, WPI, in Worcester, to join the faculty as an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.
WPI at that time was beginning the implementation of its pioneering engineering education reform, the project-centered WPI PLAN. Jim joined the implementation process, making significant contributions to several features of the PLAN, notably the Science/Society project and the Global Studies program. He directed the Division of Interdisciplinary Affairs and served as Associate Head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He was drawn to the concepts and practices of faculty governance, was elected twice to the post of Secretary of the Faculty, and chaired the Committees on Tenure and Academic Freedom and the Faculty Committee on Governance. In 1995 he was awarded the WPI Trustees Award for Outstanding Teaching. He valued the opportunity to travel with students as an advisor to their global project sites, touching down in San Francisco, London, Venice, Washington DC, San Juan PR, and Copenhagen. He was known to say that it was tough work, but someone had to do it.
In 1976 Jim succumbed to his long-standing “edifice complex”; he, Sally and the kids, and many friends built a home-made house and barn in Holden, and slowly populated a modest hobby farm with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and a productive garden.
Jim’s interest in governance, nurtured at WPI, came with him to Holden. He was appointed by the Town Manager to the Planning Board, on which he served for nine years. Subsequently he won elected positions on the Board of Selectmen, serving for seven more years.
Choral music was in Jim’s DNA. He sang in choirs, starting with his church and high school in Pittsfield. In California he joined the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society, relishing the opportunity to sing major choral works in the magnificent Carmel Mission Basilica. In Worcester, he sang in the First Unitarian Church choir and the Worcester Chorus and participated in several overseas concert tours. It was in the Worcester Chorus that he met Sue Stafford, and they married in 1997.
Jim lived with paraplegia for the last nine years of his life. Requiring skilled nursing care for that condition, he lived at the Jewish Healthcare Center, Worcester, for long-term care. His family wishes to acknowledge the care, skill, compassion, and professional competence of the staff at JHC as well as its hospice providers.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Jim Demetry will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 2, 2021, at the First Unitarian Church, 90 Main Street, Worcester. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the First Unitarian Church. Encore Fund for its music program, the Music Worcester Chorus Operations fund, or to the James S. Demetry ’58 Endowed Scholarship at WPI.
INFORMATION FOR MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
WPI, University Advancement
James S. Demetry ’58 Endowed Scholarship
100 Institute Rd
Worcester, MA 01609-2280
Annual Fund for Worcester Chorus Operations
319 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608-1511
First Unitarian Church
90 Main St
Worcester, MA 01608