James Delaplain, 83James "Jim" Lisle Delaplain, age 83, passed away peacefully on Dec. 26 at his home in River Falls, Wis.
James "Jim" Lisle Delaplain, age 83, passed away peacefully on Dec. 26 at his home in River Falls, Wis. He was born on Feb. 12, 1929, in Seminole, Okla., to James and Zuleme Delaplain.
Jim grew up in the oil fields of Oklahoma and graduated from McLish High School in Fittstown, Okla., as co-valedictorian, in 1947. After high school, he attended the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Okla., where he received a BS in zoology. Jim also earned a BA, MA, and ABD in English at the University of California at Berkeley.
He taught English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee prior to teaching for decades at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls, where he was a professor emeritus of English and Distinguished Teacher. He was particularly happy to be teaching students about his beloved Shakespeare and Milton and was frequently recognized and thanked by students, even years after he had served as their teacher. Jim also enjoyed welcoming and entertaining UWRF's guest artists, including the Oklahoma writer, M. Scott Momaday.
At the end of his teaching career, he was offered and accepted an appointment as an English professor at the University of Beijing in China. Although Jim read, wrote, and spoke seven foreign languages, he said that Chinese was particularly difficult. However, from all appearances, this did not hold him back from effectively teaching his students, several of whom still corresponded with him.
Moreover, there were other passions that measured the breadth of his interest in other people. One of his lifetime pursuits was entertaining with his command of the piano. His love of music brought him in touch with the singer Odetta and the Kingston Trio, whose works he shared with his family. Later in life, music influenced his decision to work after a full career as a teacher for several more years as an usher at the Ordway in St. Paul, where he reveled in operas and other performances. Another equally passionate interest was to further the cause of the Democratic Party in the River Falls area. He was several times honored to serve as the treasurer of congressional campaigns and other instrumental roles. A true life-long learner, Jim was an active member of several book clubs as well as a poetry group. Multicolored blooms surrounding his house and flourishing plants within attested to his passion for gardening, while long walks outside, winter and summer, spoke to his love of nature. For years, Jim attended the Unitarian Universalist Society Church in River Falls and was known as a reliable and thoughtful volunteer in service.
He was never to be counted out when it came to protesting the perfidy of any type of injustice. While at the University of Oklahoma, Jim and his wife-to-be Mary Kathryn were active in the desegregation movement, advocating for the first African-American student who attended the university, George W. McLaurin, whose right to pursue an equal education was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1950. Jim's stand against injustice led to a long history of participating in various protest events dating to the Vietnam War and extending to the unfair treatment of Palestinians by Israelis. The early protest led to experiencing tear gas; the later protest led to his physical beating by Israeli settlers.
And finally, he had a very strong interest in travel, as attested by his well-worn passport. He traveled the globe, marveling in the cultures he explored in such places as Greece, Russia, Thailand, and Mexico. He served on a Witness for Peace trip to South America and Vietnam, among other places, and especially enjoyed returning to Paris, where he lived for several months during his first year of marriage. His latest significant trip was a safari this year to the Serengeti in Tanzania, East Africa. Ever the professor, Jim was one who really read guidebooks thoroughly and thus could identify at a glance from hundreds of yards birds and animals of particular distinction. The guide probably never had a tourist ask so many penetrating questions.
Many people, when they think of Jim, remember his sense of humor and adventure with great appreciation. His colleagues remember his nuanced academic humor and irony, while his siblings recount stories of his pranks and adventures, stories which end endorsed with ringing laughter. His children treasure his sense of humor in the face of adversity and have integrated this valuable coping skill within their own lives. His grandchildren will never forget seeing Jim teasing them with the release of a June bug he had been holding in his mouth. Children and grandchildren both were kept on their toes as he rock climbed with them, inner tubed an ocean current, hiked a new trail, or rounded up children and nieces and nephews for a midnight snipe hunt. He knew to seize every minute of life and make it vital.
Jim married the former Mary Kathryn Hickman in 1952 in Whitebead, Okla. They were happily married for 48 years until her passing in 2000. Jim and Mary Kathryn had eight children: Stephen L. Delaplain of St Paul, Minn.; Athena R. Jones of Washington, D.C.; Laura Z. Delaplain of Norwell, Mass.; James Alfred Delaplain (deceased); Kathryn M. Woods of Norman, Okla.; Theresa R. Delaplain of Fayetteville, Ark.; James W. Delaplain of Plymouth, Minn.; and Emma Rose Delaplain (deceased). Jim is also survived by 11 grandchildren, Kathryn Patton, Becky Rohrer, Gordon Jones, Nathan Delaplain-Zook, Joshua Delaplain-Zook, Rachel Woods, Tara Mueller, Erica Mueller, Alex Mueller, Jamie Bengtson-Delaplain, and Nicholas Delaplain; two great-grandchildren, Kade and Charlotte Patton; sisters Dorothy Escamilla, Carol Bennet, and Linda Stephens; and brothers, Donald Delaplain and Paul Delaplain; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was ever the devoted parent, to his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the spouses of his children and grandchildren, Audrey Delaplain, Gordon Jones, Glen Woods, Bob Mueller, Marilee Bengtson, Blake Patton, and Daniel Rohrer.
Jim was preceded in death by two children, Alfred and Emma Rose; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James L. Delaplain Sr. of Stonewall, Okla.; Mary Kathryn's parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Hickman of Pauls Valley, Okla.; and sister Eunice Graham of Midland, Mich.
A funeral service will be held at Unitarian Universalist Society Church of River Falls at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30. A visitation starting at 12 p.m. will precede the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Witness for Peace or the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).