Nov. 16, 1921 - Oct. 3, 2012 World War II Monuments Man Prof. James Alexander Reeds II died peacefully on October 3, 2012, shortly before his 91st birthday, in Kansas City, MO, after several years of poor health. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Hedy Newman Reeds. Jim Reeds was born in 1921 in Kansas City, the second child of Ralph Edgar Reeds and Wanda Nelson Reeds. (Reeds Road in Overland Park, KS, led to the farm of his grandfather, James A. Reeds.) The family moved to Iowa City, where Jim graduated from high school. His older sister, Katherine Reeds Dunn, and two younger brothers, Nelson and Kenneth Reeds, predeceased him. Jim Reeds was one of the last of the World War II "Monuments Men." As a sergeant in the U.S. Army's unit, Monuments Fine Arts and Archives, in France and Germany, he helped save great works of art that the Nazis had stolen from their rightful owners. Jim and the other surviving scholar-soldiers in the unit were honored in 2007 by a Joint Resolution of Congress and by the award of the National Medal of the Humanities at the White House. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree by the Massachusetts College of Art in 2009. He had been looking forward to the movie, Monuments Men (starring George Clooney), now in production. Jim met Hedwig Neumann in 1945 in Wiesbaden, Germany, where Hedy was working in the Allied military government's censorship office. Hedy vividly remembers Jim taking her to see the looted artworks that had been hidden in salt mines. In 1946 they were married in Guildford, England, where Hedy had spent most of the war years as a refugee from the Nazis. Hedy, who had grown up in Vienna, had been sent to England at the age of 15 by her parents (their fate remains unknown). Army regulations required the newly- weds to go separately to America, Hedy on a ship full of war-brides, Jim on a troopship. Back home, Jim continued the education that had been interrupted by his military service. The intensive German language training he had received in the Army Specialized Training Program prompted him to change his career path from medicine to linguistics. He received a B.A. in German in 1947 and an M.A. in 1949 from the University of Iowa. At the University of Michigan, he received an M.A. in linguistics in 1959 and his Ph.D. in 1966. After teaching high school English and German in Iowa City and Fargo, ND, Jim taught at Pennsylvania State University- Altoona, at the University of Detroit, and at the University of Michigan. In 1966, he became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. In 1969, he returned to his hometown to teach linguistics and the history of the English language as a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jim retired from the UMKC English Department in 1990. Jim and Hedy returned to Europe in 1956-7 when Jim had a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Detmold, Germany. In 1984, Jim was awarded a Fulbright Professorship to teach at the University of Lodz in Poland. Jim's interests ranged widely, from the arts to running. For many years he served as a docent at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where he developed a special fondness for ancient Chinese bronzes. Jim was a talented singer and actor, participating in the Mendelssohn Choir (now the Kansas City Symphony Choir) and several theatre groups. Even when the family had little money, he insisted on buying a grand piano for Hedy, and to the end of his life, he took great joy in Hedy's playing. At the age of sixty, Jim joined the Kansas City Track Club and became an avid runner. He ran in marathons all over the United States and in Europe and often brought home trophies in the senior division. Everyone who knew Jim will remember him for his quick wit. In addition to his wife, Jim's survivors include his children, James A. Reeds III of Princeton, NJ, and Susan E. Ellman of Milwaukee, WI, his daughter-in-law, Karen Reeds, his brother, Ralph E. Reeds, Jr., M.D., of Findlay, OH, his nieces and nephews, John Robert Dunn of Houston, Martha Dunn of Baltimore, Janet Davis of Long Beach, CA, and Scott Reeds of Brooklyn, and several grand-nephews and grand-nieces. Jim had five grandchildren: Elizabeth Reeds of Kansas City, Anne Reeds of Brooklyn, Chana Ellman of Montreal, and Alisa and Shulamith Ellman of Milwaukee. In a private funeral on October 5, Jim was given a green burial in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, KS. A memorial service at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City is being planned. The family requests no flowers, but would welcome donations to organizations dear to Jim's heart: Doctors Without Borders, doctorswithoutborders.com; All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Kansas City, allsoulskc.org; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, www.nelson-atkins.org; and the University of Missouri-Kansas City scholarship fund, 800-662-UMKC .
Published in Kansas City Star on December 16, 2012