TROY — James Witmer, 61, died peacefully at home in Troy surrounded by his wife and children on Monday, Oct. 26, following a brief illness.
Jim was born July 6, 1959 in Orrville, OH, to Daniel and Maxine Witmer.
Jim’s greatest legacy is his love for his family. He was a loving and devoted husband to his wife of eight years, Ronni Searight-Witmer; a generous and proud father to his three children: Carly Witmer; Lindsey (Patrick) Witmer Collins; and Adam; and the best Poppi to grandchildren Rita (9), Hugh (2) and Eamon (2).
Throughout his career as a photojournalist and videographer (Witmer started his career in Troy at the newspaper as an intern and later became chief photographer. He also worked as a staff photographer at the Miami News in Florida and the Dayton Daily News), thousands of Jim’s images were published in the U.S. and worldwide, including in Time and Life magazines, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, United Press International, and the Associated Press worldwide. Jim was named the Ohio Photographer of the Year (ONPA) five times, and the Regional Photographer of the Year (NPPA Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana) three times.
Jim’s fine art photography paralleled his journalism work, and he was experimenting with technique all his life. He leaves behind a vast collection of photos that illustrate the glory days of darkroom photography and its transition into digital forms. Holding a B.F.A. from Ohio University, Jim supported the local arts and artists through his service on selection committees for shows at the Hayner Cultural Center in Troy and more.
In addition to his work as a photojournalist and fine art photographer, Jim – a passionate homebrewer since the ’80s – enjoyed sharing his love of craft beer. From 2016, he worked for Cavalier Distributing. A version of his award-winning Mint Cookie Stout beer is now served as a seasonal favorite at Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton.
Jim is also survived by his father Daniel Witmer and his siblings: Janice (Ron) Geiser; Daryl Witmer; Donna (Paul) Souder; Robert (Waunita) Witmer; Ron (Michelle) Witmer; Kathy (Conrad) Detweiler; Carol (Paul) Swartz; Jerry (Tiffany) Witmer; and Brian (Sarah) Witmer; as well as additional family and more friends than can be reasonably counted. He is preceded in death by his mother, Maxine.
A retrospective show of Jim’s work and a celebration of his life is being planned for 2021.
Donations can be made in Jim’s name to the Lincoln Community Center in Troy and the Stivers School for the Arts’ seedlings Foundation in Dayton.