Amherst Magazine

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Jim Atwood (1936-1998)

Ever since Jim Atwood was a kid, friends consistently noticed two endearing qualities: his great good humor and his passion for jazz and playing jazz piano.

Thanks to Jim’s brother, John Elliott, we have fresh evidence that those qualities endured to the end. John kindly sent a lovely remembrance of Jim by his lifelong friend from Blake School in Minneapolis, Larry Salzman. (He’s standing next to Jim in this 1967 photo.) Larry wrote of Jim’s “wacky sense of humor” and ability to produce “uncontrolled laughter.”

And he emphasized how Jim had taught him to raise his musical horizons beyond swing bands through discovering Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. “This was the music that Jim aspired to understand and ultimately perform on the piano.” Jazz, Salzman said, was the “glue that cemented our lifelong bond. Any chance we got during the 1950s, we would play together late into the night on the darkened sun porch of my house where we had an upright piano and I had my drums set up. My parents never complained.”

At Amherst, his fellow Blake classmates Lynn Truesdell and Peter Van Dusen remember how Jim put his wit to good use by coming to home hockey games and heckling players on the visiting team. Jim’s heckling was so uproarious that its nnerving effect on the opposition was as good as having an extra man on the Amherst team. Fraternity brothers at DKE also remember how easily Jim conjured up, when at the piano late at night with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, images of Hoagy Carmichael at a fancy jazz club. He was very good.

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After college Jim returned to his native Minneapolis. Over the course of the years he worked for Donaldson’s, the Courier Dispatch Inc. and the Handicapped Transport System. He never married. Unfortunately, as time passed Jim became incapacitated by poor health, and he spent the final years of his life at Wilder Residence East in St. Paul. According to Salzman, these were years of some “pain and disappointment.”

James Foster Atwood died peacefully Oct. 20, 1998. Brother John said he would have felt honored to be included in our 50th Reunion festivities. Jim Atwood (1936-1998)

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Jim and his nephew, John Christopher Elliott,
July 4, 1980, on their shared birth date; Jim was 44.

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Jim at the piano in 1967 with friend Larry Salzman

James Atwood, 10/20/1998

James Foster Atwood ’58

Jim Atwood died peacefully on October 20, 1998 at
Wilder Residence East in St. Paul, MN, after a long
period of ill health.
Jim was born July 4, 1938 in Minneapolis to
George Winthrop Atwood and Katherine May Atwood
(Clark). He received his secondary education at the
Blake School in Minneapolis, from which he graduated
with distinction. Jim went on to Amherst along with
two other Blake School students, Lynn Truesdell and
Peter Van Dusen.
At Amherst, Jim majored in history and was active
in the blood drives, the College Sixteen, and the
Outing Club. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon
fraternity, of which he was secretary during his senior
year.
Jim had a great love of music and was a talented
jazz pianist. Fraternity brother Art Powell reminisces
that Jim’s presence at the piano of the Deke House on
a Saturday night, with cigarette dangling from his
mouth, would conjure up images of Hoagy Carmichael
and that it took only a little stretch of the imagination
for one to think that he was in one of the country’s
great jazz establishments.
Peter Van Dusen recalls that Jim was brilliant,
funny, and witty. He remembers how Jim would put his
humor and wit to good use for Amherst by coming
down to the home hockey games and heckling the
players on the visiting team. Jim’s heckling was so
uproarious that its unnerving effect on the opposite
team was as good as having an extra man on the
Amherst team.
Jim returned to his native Minneapolis after
graduation, and over the course of the years worked
for Donaldson’s, the Courier Dispatch, Inc., and the
Handicapped Transport System. Unfortunately, as time
passed Jim because incapacitated by poor health, and
he spent the final years of his life at Wilder Residence
East.
Lynn Truesdell, a lifelong friend of Jim’s, wrote the
following for the local newspapers. “All who knew Jim
will remember particularly his keen wit, his sense of
humor, and his great talent as a jazz pianist, all of
which were so much a part of him, and so
characterized his life during his vital years.”
Jim never married. He is survived by his mother;
by his brothers, John, Christopher, and Clark; by his
sister Kate; and by three nephews and one niece, to
all of whom the Class extends its sympathy.

- John E.G. Bischof ’58

 

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