James Edward Opfell James Edward Opfell Memorial

Born: October 30, 1929 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, USA
Died: April 18, 2019 in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, USA

James Edward Opfell 1929 - 2019

 James Edward Opfell

Born: October 30, 1929 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, USA
Died: April 18, 2019 in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, USA

James (Jim) Edward Opfell, 89, formerly of Thompson, Ohio, died peacefully in Wyndmoor, PA with his family at the bedside on April 18th, 2019.

Jim was born in October, 1929 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa to Edward Uriah Opfell and Carrie Evelyn Walker. When Jim was three years old, his father lost his job as a high school wood shop teacher when the state governor canceled all high-school shop programs due to the Depression. He moved the family to a 140-acre farm outside of Iowa City, owned by Evelyn's mother. Ed, with his wife, five kids, horses, and wagon set out to be a farmer. Soon after the family moved to the farm, they opened their doors first to Evelyn’s elderly mother and then to Ed’s father and his new wife and kids. One of Jim’s earliest memories was sharing a bedroom (and one of two beds) with six other children. He also remembered that the family stored frozen meat in the kids’ bedroom closet in the winter, but that they didn’t get cold because they had “about 17” blankets on top of them. Ed worked hard to increase the farm’s productivity, to electrify the community where they lived, and to provide for his family, despite the hard times during the Great Depression. Jim attended a one-room school house with his brothers and sister, and helped out on the farm after school and in the summers.

When Jim was 16, his father died after a brief illness. That fall, Jim and his little brother Ron harvested the crops with the help of a neighbor.  Evelyn sold the farm, took classes to become a home economics teacher, learned to drive, and moved the family to Iowa City.

Jim met Celeste (Wall) his freshman year at the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, and they were married on September 1, 1950 after she graduated from the nursing school. Jim put himself through college and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering in 1951. He joined Phi Lambda Upsilon and Tau Beta Pi, both engineering honorary fraternities.  Jim worked most of his career for two companies, Allied Chemical and American Cyanamid, as a Chemist, Process Engineer, Supervisor and Foreman. He was very proud of his 5 patents from his stint in R&D, and was sent by his companies to plants in and out of the U.S. to resolve difficult process problems or to design new processes. Jim and Celeste had three daughters and two sons. Jim retired at 57, and he, Celeste, and their son Tom built their retirement home on a 32-acre fruit farm in Thompson, Ohio.

Jim was known for his intelligence and for his interest in a wide variety of topics. He spoke often of Aristotle and Socrates as his mentors. During the 1960s while living in Colonial Heights, Virginia, he led the local Great Books Club and was an avid bridge player. In retirement in Ohio he researched his own and Celeste’s genealogy, and as an officer in the Geauga County Genealogical Society assisted others in their research. Throughout his life, he collected stamps “because you learn a lot about history from stamps," and in his later life he collected coins. He and Celeste were members of their local Unitarian Church wherever they lived, and they were the archivists for their church in Kirtland, Ohio.

Jim was also known for his kindness and generosity, and his desire to share his knowledge and resources with others. He tutored high school kids in math. He stopped to help people whose cars had broken down on the side of the road. He clipped and sent newspaper articles to family and friends. He donated to a variety of charities, and was always there with loans and gifts to his children and grandchildren. And he loved to share his thoughts about his favorite topic of the day – whether “W” or “Quintessence” or “how to fix Social Security.”

This last year had been full of ups and downs: Jim lost his wife Celeste, his oldest brother John and sister Ruth Ann Roberts. He moved from his home in Thompson to Philadelphia, and then to Sunrise, an assisted living facility in Lafayette Hill, PA. He also enjoyed many outings and get-togethers with his daughters and grandchildren, and he greeted his two new great-grandchildren, Henry and Emily. Jim’s love of learning, passion for his hobbies, adoration of his children, and kindness and generosity towards everyone he met will inspire his family for a lifetime and beyond.

Jim is survived by his children Constance Opfell, Edward Opfell, Thomas (Judy) Opfell, Leigh Ann Griffith (Richard Posmontier), and Pamela (Damian) Hughes; by his grandchildren Elizabeth Griffith (Matthew Edlefsen), Rachael Griffith (Benjamin Laidig), Andrew Posmontier, James Franey, Dylan Hughes, Kaitlyn Hughes, Jackson Hughes, and Russell Hughes; and by his great-grandchildren Emily Ann Edlefsen-Griffith and Henry Griffith Laidig. He is also survived by his nephews, nieces, and their families.

Private service to be held in Thompson, Ohio over Memorial Day weekend.

Philadelphia Cremation Society on April 21, 2019