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James Albert Coleman
September 17, 1941 ~ October 28, 2023 (age 82) 82 Years Old
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JAMES A. COLEMAN, beloved husband, father and son, teacher, writer, and a friend to writers, a Norwich resident for 50 years, has died, age 82. He is survived by his wife, Helen, of 60 years and their four children—James, Daniel (Sheri Matylewicz, deceased), Sheilah Kennard (Joseph Kennard), and Leo (David Petrain), and by five grandchildren, Weston, Laurie, Shiloh, Jude, and Sascha.
Jim taught literature and writing at Mohegan Community College, now Three Rivers Community College, from 1973-1999. He came to Mohegan from Olivet College in Michigan, where he taught from 1966-1973. Jim was born in Detroit, to parents of Irish and German heritage, and as a young man he took great joy in racing Alfa Romeos and Jaguars in local events. Inspired by his own father’s experiences as a pinstriper in the Detroit auto industry he became a dedicated union activist in his own professional career. He was the first in his family to get a college and graduate education, and he will always be remembered by his family for loving cars almost as much as he loved reading and teaching and writing.
Former students in both Michigan and Connecticut remember him with gratitude and affection. At Olivet College in 1970 he and his creative writing students founded The Garfield Lake Review, a publication of poetry and prose named for a famed drinking hole, which continues to publish. Olivet honors a student each year with the Jim Coleman prize in writing. Under the presidency of Robert N. Rue at Mohegan Community College in the 1970s, Jim with his student Walter Nott created The Red Fox Review, a magazine of student writing.
Students remember Jim as a teacher who listened to them and put books in their hands. He was honored with local and state awards throughout his career. He regularly hosted writers of national acclaim at Three Rivers, having them read and work with his classes, including Robert Bly, Marilyn Nelson, Etheridge Knight, Margaret Gibson, William Meredith, F. D. Reeve, and James Wright. In retirement, Jim ran a popular reading series at the Hygienic in New London. As a writer, Jim won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. He was a careful craftsman of his own prose and a keen observer of working and middle class America in his fiction. He was dedicated to the creation and advancement of a more just and equitable society through education and the imagination. His generosity to others was matched by his kindness. Jim was a faithful and empathetic friend who will be missed by all who loved him.
A memorial service will be held at 1pm on Saturday, November 4 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 19 Jay Street, New London. The Gagne Piechowski Funeral Home 490 Voluntown Road Jewett City, CT has been entrusted with the arrangements. For online condolences please go www.gagnefuneralhome.com Memorial donations may be made to CT Foodshare (https://donate.ctfoodshare.org/) or International Rescue Committee (https://help.rescue.org/).