Obituary of James K. Somerville
James Karl Somerville
James passed away from Covid complications October 20, 2023 with Arleen, his wife, at his side. He was predeceased by his parents, Marie (Van Konynenburg) and Glen Somerville. He is survived by Arleen (Harlin) Somerville, his loving wife for 63 years. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Burkhardt, and his brother-in law, Albert Burkhardt of Fearrington NC; sister-in law June Goetzke of Fredonia, WI; a niece Lynn (Goetzke) and Timothy Job of Fredonia WI; nephews Timothy and Christina Goetzke of Hartford WI; Thomas and Cheryl Goetzke of Fredonia WI.
James received degrees from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and PhD from Western Reserve University, Cleveland. After two years at Ohio State University, he joined the history faculty at SUNY-Geneseo in 1967, where he stayed until his retirement in 1997. He taught a variety of American history courses, developed the College's first African American history course, and with Susan Bailey, the first women's history course. In the 1980's he taught a popular course about America in the Vietnam War. At various times Jim served in the College senate, on College committees including Academic Standards, and for several years he directed the American Studies internship program.
James was an enthusiastic horseback rider, jogger, and walker. He enjoyed early French impressionist paintings, the stimulus of international travel and a variety of music. He followed the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. He was an avid reader and relished a good white wine, especially during Happy Hours each day with his wife. After retiring, he looked forward to spending winters in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where he and Arleen went for 23 years. A favorite activity in retirement was writing poetry. He authored a book of poems, "Whimsies and Wonderings: Poems of Everyday Life", 2015, and continued to create poems until Covid came.
James believed strongly that everyone should have equal opportunity to develop their interests and talents whatever their backgrounds. He and his wife established a 4-year partial scholarship for entering Geneseo first year students (whose parents have not attended college (the Somerville First Generation Scholarship), as well as an award for sophomore history and chemistry students.
No prior calling hours. A Celebration of James life will be held on Saturday, November 4, 2023 at the Interfaith Center, 11 Franklin Street in Geneseo. Program begins at 2 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to "James and Arleen Somerville First Generation Scholarship". Send to Geneseo Foundation, One College Circle, Doty Hall 236, Geneseo, NY 14454.