Ann Arbor, MI – James Duncan Williston passed away peacefully from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on Thursday morning July 29. He was 82 years old.
Jim was born on December 7, 1938 in Gardner, Massachusetts to Catherine Elizabeth Mildren Williston of Mousehole, Penzance, UK and Blair Duncan Williston of Ontario, Canada. Jim was raised by his maternal grandparents, Catherine Elizabeth and William Henry Mildren. Jim attended Athol High School where he played saxophone in the band. He obtained a BA in English from Boston University. After graduation he joined the United States Army where he worked as a trainer of petroleum engineers. After two years, he attended Boston University to earn his master’s degree in speech-language pathology.
While working on his master’s thesis, Jim asked neighbors in his apartment building to take an IQ test. When he returned to give the results to a neighbor, Rosemary Rice, he asked for a date. They were then married in Wellesley, MA, on August 21, 1965.
Jim worked as an elementary school speech therapist for 43 years, first at Chatham and Harwich Schools on Cape Cod, then for Attleboro Schools in Attleboro, MA. He also had a private practice where he worked with adult patients who suffered from swallowing difficulties.
Jim and Rosemary lived on Cape Cod for four years. In 1969 they moved to Bridgewater, MA where they worked and raised their family. When they both retired in 2003, they moved to Ann Arbor, MI to be close to their grandchildren.
Jim was active in supporting the arts and music in Attleboro and throughout the state of Massachusetts. On several occasions, he has been picketing for better funding. He was an advocate for a cleaner environment, recycling decades before it became common practice. He treated everyone equally. Jim had a special love for cats. Along with Rosemary, they rescued and cared for around 30 cats during their nearly 56-year marriage. Jim once drove six hours to meet his son, Craig, in the middle of Pennsylvania to pick up an abandoned cat that Craig had found in New York City.
Jim loved to learn new things. Throughout his life he learned to play tennis, fencing, downhill skiing and sailing, he took Portuguese and Russian lessons, he taught himself to play the organ and of the keyboard. In his spare time Jim enjoyed reading detective novels and doing crosswords. Jim has devoted his entire life to singing. As a child, he sang in his church choir. He was a member of the Bridgewater State College Choir for 30 years with a number of choirs in Ann Arbor. One of the highlights for Jim was singing in Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.
For thirty years Jim and Rosemary traveled extensively in Europe and North Africa. After his retirement, Jim volunteered at SafeHouse. He always liked to exercise. He was a regular at the Ann Arbor Y Enhance Fitness class.
Jim is survived by his wife, Rosemary Rice, his son, Craig Emerson Williston (Yumi) of New York, his daughter, Bethany Rhys Williston (Mike) of Ann Arbor, MI, and the children of Bethany Zachary Heath Williston, Cameron Nate Williston, and Zoey Xiao-Ju Williston.
As per Jim’s wishes, no service took place. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Humane Society of Huron Valley or your local animal shelter.
Posted by Athol Daily News on October 2, 2021.