James “Jim” Avery Clum

Jim Clum

Jim Clum died peacefully on August 24, 2022, at the age of 85.

Jim was born on July 7, 1937, in Sidney, New York. He was the first of 3 children born to Nettie (Miles) and Moore Preston Clum, the older brother to Virginia (Tiska) and Kathryn (Smith). Except for a short stint in Rochester, NY where his father was employed as part of the war effort, he was raised in the house in Sidney that had been in his maternal family’s possession for four generations and was presided over, during his early years, by his maternal grandmother, Carrie Miles. Preston was a skilled machinist but did not always have regular employment. Nettie worked taking in laundry and, later, spent many years cooking in the Sidney public school system. Jim was a popular and academically accomplished student, enjoying school athletics and clubs.

In 1955, his senior year of high school, he was nominated for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but he did not pass the medical exam due to a congenital kidney issue. Scrambling to find an alternate option, he secured admission to the engineering program at The Ohio State University. He set off for fall semester by bus, having never traveled that far west before, arriving at OSU to find that his assigned barracks-style dormitory left a lot to be desired. Through a Sidney connection, he quickly found another place to room and board at the Sigma Nu fraternity house, where he joined a welcoming and social community. Working in one of the student cafeterias, he caught the attention of a fellow student co-worker, Cynthia “Cindy” Spoerl, when he dropped a big tray of dishes. From that “meet cute,” they began dating and married on August 4, 1962 in the Catholic church (St. Rose in Perrysburg, OH) that Cindy’s great-grandfather had helped found.

Jim graduated from OSU with a degree in metallurgical engineering and went on to pursue a PhD. in metallurgical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, one of the nation’s top engineering schools, an impressive accomplishment for someone whose parents had had to leave high school for paid work before graduating. As he was finishing up his PhD, he and Cindy welcomed their only child, Kimberly (Kim). Jim followed his PhD with a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge University in England, an experience that provided his young family a year and a half of European adventures and a lifelong love of England.

Jim and family returned from England to Jim’s first academic position in the engineering school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. They spent many happy years in Madison and although Jim’s career took them to other towns and universities, they always considered Madison their home and Jim ensured his career brought them back for more than one stint there.

Jim was a devoted husband and doting father and while he spent many early hours and Saturdays working, he always made time for entertaining his daughter, Kim, teaching her to play tennis and golf, and serving as the most regular carpool driver for Kim’s astonishingly early morning swim practices. A person of few words, he was highly observant and possessed a quiet sense of humor. He enjoyed sharing this humor with Kim, such as during the car rides home from evening swim practice (which he would wait out sitting in the bleachers grading students’ work) when he wryly noted that Kim seemed to need a lot of bathroom breaks during practice.

In a career with many highlights and accolades, especially for his teaching and service work, Jim was proudest of two particular accomplishments: helping found the engineering program (the Watson School) at the flagship university for the state of New York, SUNY-Binghamton, and directing the Manufacturing Engineering Bachelor program for the Focus Hope Consortium in Detroit, MI. The Focus Hope Consortium was a groundbreaking initiative providing students with very low incomes an opportunity to obtain a four-year degree and employment in a well-paid industrial field.

He and Cindy decided to return to Madison when Cindy was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Several years after Cindy’s death in 2002, Jim met a wonderful new partner, Eve Wilkie, a true companion in adventure. From 2005, they made the most of their shared interests in fitness, nature, travel and good food. They traveled extensively, including trips to Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, Alaska, national parks in the Southwest, Michigan, and many trips to visit Eve’s Aunt Neva who had a home in what Jim thought was likely the most magical place on earth, Lummi Island in the Pacific Northwest. He fell so in love with the place, he tried to convince his daughter to move to nearby Bellingham, WA. Jim finally fully retired from teaching in 2016, a year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Jim converted to Catholicism as a young adult and his Catholic faith was a source of great meaning and solace to him. He was also an unfailingly kind and generous person who cared deeply about others and their well-being, often going out of his way to offer help.

Jim passed away from Parkinson’s Disease on August 24 at Agrace Hospice under their excellent and compassionate care. He was preceded in death by both parents and his first wife, Cindy. He is survived by his wife Eve Wilkie, her sons and daughters-in-law, Nick and Kathy Wilkie and Sam and Christina Wilkie, their children, Mac, Neva, and Adam; his daughter Kim, her husband Todd Cain, Todd’s daughters Ella and Anna; his sisters and brother-in-law, Virginia and Mike Tiska, and Kathryn Smith; his brother and sister-in-law, Ronald and Carolyn Spoerl; and his many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews and great-great nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 1:00 pm on Saturday, October 15, 2022 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 401 S. Owen Drive.

To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com.