Sunday, June 24, 2018

Obituary - James Perry Thurber Jr.;

sad news kindly provided by LJB
James Perry Thurber Jr. Obituary
James Perry Thurber, Jr.
June 3, 1928 - June 16, 2018
Los Altos, California

James Thurber, distinguished diplomat and community volunteer, died on June 16 after a brief illness. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday. He was a long-time resident of Los Altos. 

Jim was in the Foreign Service for 23 years. From 1967 to 1973, he served in various positions in United States Information Agency [JB - see this Agency's role in USA public diplomacy] offices in Tanzania, Malawi and Nigeria. From 1978 to 1981, he was Counselor of Embassy at the American Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and prior to that served as Chief of the Policy Guidance Office at USIA in Washington. In 1980, he was presented with the State Department's Award for Valor for his actions during the takeover and destruction of the American Embassy in Islamabad by a Pakistani mob, during which two Americans and three Pakistani Embassy employees were killed. Just prior to his retirement in 1990 he received the USIA Superior Honor Award for his role in developing a Fulbright Exchange Program between the United States and Canada.

At the time of his retirement, he was Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Earlier he served as Director of the United States Information Agency's operations in North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf and South Asia. Formerly an independent agency, USIA was absorbed into the Department of State in 1998. 

The Foreign Service was a third career for him. From 1956 to 1967 he was employed by Stanford University in various academic administrative positions including being assistant to the university vice president and provost. Prior to that he was a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal in the San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit offices. His last assignment for the Journal was bureau chief in Houston.

Jim lived in Los Altos from 1956 to 1967 and returned to retire in 1990. He has been a very active volunteer in both his town and in the broader Bay Area. Among his many activities were service on the Los Altos City Council from 1960 to 1967. He was mayor for 4 years, a record. He was an original member of the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments where he was chair of the agency's recreation committee for 6 years. From 1958-1959, he was Chairman of the Growth and Expansion Committee for the Los Altos School District. 

When he was overseas he continued his tradition of public service by being Chairman, Board of Directors, American International School, Lagos, Nigeria, 1972-1975, and President, Board of Directors, International School of Islamabad, Pakistan, 1979-1981.

In retirement he has served as President of the Los Alto History Museum; member of the Board of Hidden Villa Ranch; member of the Los Altos Library Commission for 14 years and chair for 4; director of the Bus Barn Stage Company for many years; director, Los Altos Community Foundation; member and later president of the Foothill-DeAnza Colleges Foundation; commissioner and chair, Santa Clara County Airports Commission; director, League of Conservation Voters; treasurer, Foreign Service Association of Northern California; member, Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee for Affordable Housing; Trustee, Goodwill Industries of Santa Clara County. 

In addition to his service to the community, Jim has been very active in the Democratic Party in California. He was an elected member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party Central Committee as well as the California State Democratic Central Committee. He was director of the county finance committee for many years as well as treasurer of the United Democratic Campaign. He also served as president of the Democratic Century Club and the Peninsula Democratic Coalition. He was the Democratic Candidate for Congress in 1962 against incumbent Republican Charles Gubser. He was an elected delegate to three national Democratic Conventions. He was a very hands-on Democrat and every election year could always be found finding a location for a northern Santa Clara County headquarters, cleaning the place up, recruiting and directing staff and finally paying all the bills with money he helped raise as finance chair of the local party!

Jim is a graduate of Milton Academy, Milton, MA, and spent a 13th high school year at the Thatcher School in Ojai. He has a bachelor's degree from Stanford University in Journalism and a master's degree from George Washington University in International Relations. He attended the National War College in 1973-74. 

He married Emily Forrest in 1950 and they have four children who survive him: James Perry Thurber, III (Debra McGibbon), Harriette Thurber Rasmussen, Alexander Forrest Thurber (Courtney Graham) and Mary Thurber Martin. In addition, he has 12 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. There will be a celebration of Jim's life in the fall.

View the online memorial 
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on June 19, 2018
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