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James Elliott Maynard: Schoolteacher, dance enthusiast

James Maynard, a longtime Claremont resident, died of kidney failure on September 21, 2015 with his loving daughter by his side. He was 87 years old.

He was born on May 24, 1928 in Elmira, New York to Helen and Kingsley Maynard, MD. Growing up, Jim loved the outdoors and enjoyed any athletic activity including skiing, hiking, bicycling and, most especially, swimming and canoeing at his family’s cabin on Ondawa Lake in Pennsylvania.

For most of his youth, it was just Jim and his brother Robert, who was two years older. That changed when he turned 15 and his younger sister Dorothy was born. In high school, he was on the yearbook staff and played softball and varsity football—the team won only one game his senior year, which was also the only game in which they scored any points! He graduated high school in 1946, missing the draft for World War II by seven days. 

Mr. Maynard attended Elmira College then transferred to Carlton College in Minnesota, where he received a degree in education in 1950. At Carlton he was a cheerleader, discovered dance, was involved in the choir and drama and was on the ski team, including ski jumping. For those of you who remember Wide World of Sports and the show’s opening with the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” the agony of defeat was a poor ski jumper falling off the bottom of the ski jump ramp and smashing to the ground; Jim had a similar experience, but it didn’t slow him down much. 

After college, Mr. Maynard worked for a church as a youth activities director before being drafted for the Korean War in 1953 just as the war was ending. He was assigned to the US Counter Intelligence Corp in Korea, where he learned to pick locks and drink alcohol without getting drunk. He continued to pursue his education after being discharged in 1955, attending George Williams College in Illinois, receiving a master’s degree in group work education and exploring the teachings of Edgar Casey, a Christian mystic and psychic. 

He went to Watertown, New York to work for the Presbyterian Church and there met Ruth Walker, whom he married in 1960. The couple moved to Ashland, Wisconsin where Mr. Maynard taught religion for two years at Northland College and they welcomed their daughter Sharon. From Ashland, the Maynards moved to Claremont for Jim to pursue a degree in religion. They remained in Claremont until 2011 when they moved to Oregon to be closer to Sharon.

Mr. Maynard taught elementary school in Pomona for 28 years, teaching first sixth and then the fourth grades. He loved music and was passionate about dance. He was in a performing folk dance group in the 1970s and taught folk dance from 1963 until he moved to Oregon. Each fall, Jim took his school class to perform folk dance at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, the largest fair in the United States. When he retired from teaching school, he continued to teach dance at the local senior center and took his senior students to the LA County Fair to perform.  

For many years, Mr. Maynard was the director of the liturgical dance choir at the Claremont Methodist Church where he had been a member since moving to Claremont. Jim was a very kind man who had a great sense of humor, particularly about himself. He was a talented writer and told a great story. He will be deeply missed.  

He is survived by his wife Ruth Maynard, daughter Sharon Maynard (Larry Smith), sister Dorothy Maynard, grand-dogs Reilly and Fiona and grand-horse Hermiston.

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