James Edward Witham


James Edward Witham of Essex, MA died on Monday November 13.  Born in Plymouth, NH, he was the youngest son of the late Cedric Ned and Francena (Hortense Eastman) Witham.  

James (Jim) grew up in Laconia, NH graduating from Laconia High School in 1962.  After high school, he attended Rochester Institute of Technology College of Fine and Applied Arts where he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, worked on the school newspaper and met his wife, Pamela.  After a brief hiatus his junior year to join the Air Force Reserves and attend basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, he returned and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in1967.  After Rochester, NY, Jim and Pam moved to Boston and Jim joined the Air Force Reserves in 1967 serving 10 years traveling to Turkey, Greece, Germany working as a medic.  

Jim’s career as a graphic designer had him working in advertising agencies in Boston including Humphrey, Browning and MacDougall; Witham & Childs then moved on to start his own advertising firm Skunk Hollow Designs in Essex.  In his career, Jim was recognized for his excellence winning the Boston Advertising Hatch Award multiple times including Best of Show.  

Jim had numerous hobbies including oil painting, art, genealogy, researching Essex ships, collecting steam engines and model trains.  Jim traced his family back to the 1600s and identified several members that participated in the Revolutionary War allowing him to join the Sons of the American Revolution.  He and his wife Pam participated in Revolutionary War re-enactments taking place throughout New England. 

As one of the founding members of the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, established in 1976, Jim contributed in various capacities including serving as President, curator, tour director, and a devoted volunteer.  His commitment to community history extended beyond the museum’s walls, as he was also an active member of the Essex Town Community Preservation Committee.  One of the many town historians, Jim has been researching Essex history for the past 47 years.  Jim was recently recognized for his commitment to building the research archives by having the archives formally dedicated to him on October 13, 2023.  The recognition describes Jim as “one of the town’s most dedicated historians (and) has been an unyielding pillar of the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum.”  The research that Jim did united his own family genealogy with Essex history to identify one of his ancestors as one of the original settlers of Chebacco, which later became Essex.

Jim is survived by his loving wife, Pamela J (Daniel) Witham of Essex; sister-in-law Marlene Witham of NH; in-laws Dr. Rolf Daniel and his wife Aimee of IN; four nephews, Glenn Hamburg of CA, Ned Witham of NH, Aaron Witham of NH, and Nathan Daniel of IN; five nieces, Karen Blake of MA, Marge Hart of NH, Laurie Hamburg of CO, Laurene Monet of FL, Bethany Lamprey of NH and Kristen Farnham of IN; their respective spouses and many great nieces, great-great nieces, and nephews.

Funeral services for James are private.  Contributions may be made in his memory to the Essex Historical Society & Shipbuilding Museum, 66 Main Street, Essex, MA 01929.  A celebration of life will be held at the museum spring of 2024, date to be announced.