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Obituary: Abel, James Willard

Age 95

James Willard
(1916 - 2012)

Jim was born James Willard Abel on March 6, 1916, in Pomona, Kansas, to musical parents. He was about a month shy of 96 years old when he passed away February 3, 2012, peacefully and quietly at the Spokane Veterans Home. He started out playing the clarinet as a child, switching to the bassoon while serving in London during the Second World War as musician in, and later bandmaster of, the U. S. Army Band, European Theater, stationed in London. Jim learned to play the new instrument from a retired principal bassoonist of the London Symphony, and was also introduced to the Unitarian Church during his time in London. Later the U. S. Army Band was transferred to Germany, where Jim met his wife, Trudy, who lived across the street from where Jim was billeted with another German family. During his time in the European Theater, Jim had the opportunity to perform with the U. S. Army Band for the Potsdam Conference, where President Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill met in 1945 to discuss the handling of the German surrender. Jim and Trudy married in 1947, and lived briefly in Kansas before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where Jim taught in Rosalia and Davenport before moving to Spokane to teach grade school band. He described it as a privilege to have been able to mentor so many young students in their musical endeavors. Jim eventually became head of Spokane’s All City Band, coordinating the coming together of all of Spokane’s school bands at Lewis and Clark High School, an experience he described as “an incomparable feeling.” Jim explained he enjoyed music because it is “so precise” and good discipline for the mind. He also enjoyed repairing watches, another activity that demanded precision and discipline. Values and principles that Jim has lived by over the years include “do the best you can” and “don’t get too angry with anybody.” Jim Abel was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane since the early 1950s, and a valuable and beloved member of the congregation, especially the choir. A constant theme in his life was music, hard work, and a belief in the potential of people.
Preceded by Trudy’s passing in 1973, he is survived by daughter Kate and her greyhounds in Spokane; son Dan, his wife and three children in Petaluma, CA; son Frank, his wife and two children in Brier, WA; brother-in-law Hans Welter, his wife, children and grandchildren in Spokane; nephews Kim Davis and his family in Spokane and Rolf Bechlin and his family in Germany; and Susan Davis and her family in Spokane.
A Memorial Service is planned for Saturday, March 3rd, 2 PM, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, 4340 W. Ft. George Wright Drive, Spokane, WA, 99224. It was Jim’s wish that in lieu of flowers, Memorial contributions be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane.


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