James Manning

James Francis Manning

1932 - 2022

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Obituary of James Francis Manning

James Francis Manning, born Aug. 13 1932, died peacefully Nov. 5, 2022 in the company of his wife Priscilla, daughter Rebecca Manning Chase, and daughter-in-law Kirstin Greene. In addition to them, James is survived by three sons, Eric, Paul and Robert, and another daughter, Emily Mathon, and their spouses (Christopher Chase, Sunshine Mathon, Jolie Manning and Angela Manning), and 13 grandchildren ranging in age from 10 to 28. Jim was a lifelong educator and leader, and a quietly devout Catholic. Born in Rhode Island during the Depression, much of Jim’s childhood was spent in Everett, Massachusetts, near Boston during World War II. He remembered his mother Katherine Donovan working as a welder to help the war effort, where he says she lasted about six months before the woman Jim described as “never weighing more than 90 pounds” decided the work was too grueling. She got a job waiting tables at the famous Boston restaurant, Durgin Park. Jim recalled war rationing, with few families driving cars, no children’s sleds or bicycles, with steel largely used to help the military. Jim would fondly recall the end of the war in 1945, when he was in his early teens, with the return of hot dogs to ocean beaches and boardwalks marking the end to wartime limitations. Jim’s piety and appreciation for education grew with Jim’s attendance at one of the first diocesan high schools in Boston, at the city’s North End. Although Jim had to ride a bus into Boston every day to attend school and sit through rigorous classes taught by Franciscan brothers, he saw a future for himself in academics. At the same time, Jim would build lasting friendships in Everett and a deep appreciation for public service and the outdoors through the Boy Scouts - an organization he would stay active with for many years. At the Boston high school, Jim developed an appreciation and interest in what his teachers were doing, leading him to St. Joseph’s Seminary in Calicoon, NY, where he started on a path to follow the Franciscan friars who had taught him in high school. The summers he spent as a camp counselor for the Boy Scouts. But as the time approached in 1955, for Jim to commit to further theological studies and a future in the priesthood, he chose a different path. Jim would tell his older children that he realized he might want to be a father one day, but he said three books had a particularly profound effect on him at that time - Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewelyn and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Jim said those books convinced him he wanted to be an English teacher. Jim wouldn’t leave religious institutions altogether though, enrolling at Boston College, a Jesuit university, for his master’s degree. It wouldn’t be long before Jim would get a job at Newark Academy, the institution that would teach him to be not just a teacher, but a leader of schools. Jim spent 22 years as a teacher, counselor and assistant headmaster at Newark, forming lifelong friendships with colleagues as well as students (some of whom would call him years later to talk and seek advice). In the early 1960’s at a conference at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Jim met the woman who would become the love of his life, fellow English teacher Priscilla Wood. Priscilla recalls visiting Jim at Newark Academy to observe his teaching, and starting to become part of the Newark community, by helping Jim chaperone dances, for instance. The two wed in February 1965. Jim spent much of the next 15 years working at Newark Academy and raising a family with Priscilla in Livingston, New Jersey. They had five children: daughter Rebecca, sons Eric, Paul and Robert, and daughter Emily. Jim’s parents Katherine and Thomas lived several years in the downstairs of the Manning family home, though Katherine died before meeting the two youngest grandchildren, and Thomas died a few years later. The Mannings would often spend holidays and special occasions with either the Wood cousins in nearby New Providence, New Jersey, or the Whitney cousins (Jim’s sister Eleanor’s family) in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Eleanor, who died a few years ago, was also a teacher. In 1979, Jim was hired to become headmaster at The Albany Academy, and moved the family a few hours north to run the private K-12 school in Albany, New York. It was a boys’ school that Eric, Paul and Robert all attended and graduated from; Rebecca and Emily attended the Albany Academy for Girls, across the street. Jim supervised a challenging time at AA. Its military bearing in the post-Vietnam era drew conflict between the “old school” supporters of “the battalion” and those who wanted the school to focus elsewhere. Some of Jim’s greatest accomplishments at the school were quite visible: a new science wing with modern labs replacing sprawling lecture halls, updated arts and music rooms, as well as new athletic fields and all-weather track. The job of headmaster wasn’t without stress. If Jim wasn’t taking long walks around the Academy grounds with the family golden retriever, Beau, he might be trying to relax by tending to his flowers and tomato plants in the backyard. In the summer, Jim would spend weeks with Priscilla and the kids. In Livingston and through the early years in Albany, they would stay in a Wood cousin’s house on Bow Lake in New Hampshire. Later on, Jim would haul the family and pop-up trailer on long camping trips as far west as Wyoming and south to Savannah. Jim’s genuine way of connecting with students, alumni, parents as well as faculty helped him guide the Albany Academy for a little more than a decade, until the youngest son, Rob, graduated in 1990. With four of the five Manning kids out of the house and no child at the school, Jim decided it was time to leave the Headmaster’s House on Academy Road and seek other challenges. He was hired to run a very small private school with an auspicious name in Lake Placid, NY: the National Sports Academy. Jim’s tenure would be relatively short-lived, as he attempted the seemingly impossible task of running a tiny school for aspiring Olympic athletes out of a renovated ski lodge, with no endowment and very little enrollment predictability. But Jim’s talent for connecting with donors and raising money helped him land his next position, directing development at New York Military Academy, in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Jim would knock on every door he could find, while helping school leaders build connections to alumni and parents. Priscilla stayed in Lake Placid so that daughter Emily could finish high school where she started, leading to many weekend drives up and down the Northway for Jim, between work and family. The last few years at NYMA, Priscilla and Jim lived together on campus, where they made some friends, but few connections rivaled those forged over their years in Newark and Albany. Jim officially retired from education in 1996, 40 years after taking his first job at Newark Academy. But he would continue teaching and leading communities in a spirit of learning and public service for more than two decades after that. Jim and Priscilla retired to a familiar region: the Boston area’s North Shore, where they settled into a centuries-old home in the Cove neighborhood of Beverly. As a docent at the Peabody Essex Museum, Jim helped lead the “Three Centuries of Salem” tour. He kept his teaching skills sharp by tutoring middle school students at the Huntington Center and leading religious studies classes at St. John’s. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Jim and Priscilla noticed their children, and slowly, grandchildren, were establishing roots in other parts of the country. Rebecca was in Tennessee, and later California. Emily was in Texas and then Virginia. The three boys, Eric, Paul and Rob, settled in Portland, Oregon. With the help of son Paul and grandson Timber, Jim and Priscilla packed up for Portland. Jim’s penchant for leading didn’t end with the move to Portland. At their new apartment building in the Brooklyn neighborhood, Jim would be fondly referred to as the “Mayor of Sacred Heart Villa.” Residents knew if they were having difficulty with management or had specific needs, they could find sympathetic and determined advocates in Jim and Priscilla. Jim was active with the Sacred Heart church next door, in classes and discussion groups, and in distributing food through the church and the nonprofit, St. Vincent de Paul. As Jim and Priscilla entered their late eighties, many aspects of their independent lives became increasingly challenging for them to navigate on their own. They became more frail and in need of support, much of which was provided by their daughter-in-law Angela, a nurse by training and a devoted supporter of the elder Mannings. In February 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic making life difficult for everyone, Jim and Priscilla agreed to make a move, on the advice of their children - including Angela, who had been living with Jim and Priscilla to help with their daily needs. Jim and Priscilla downsized once again, and moved into Deerfield Assisted Living just south of Portland in Milwaukie. It wasn’t long before Jim was again pressed into a leadership position. He was elected the president of the board of residents - a role Jim accepted, though before long he realized even short meetings were too exhausting for him. Jim had been diagnosed with prostate cancer many years before, but he was able to fight it off for decades with treatment, rest, nutrition and Irish toughness. The disease resurfaced forcefully during the last year of his life. In Fall 2022, both Jim and Priscilla entered hospice. Even as cancer was spreading into Jim’s bones, his thoughts were always about care for Priscilla and ensuring she was getting the attention she needed. During the last week of Jim’s life, it was clear the end was approaching. Rebecca flew up from her home in the Bay Area. Emily flew in from Virginia. Both daughters arrived in Portland on Nov. 4, 2022, in time to say their last good-byes to their dear Dad. Jim would die in his sleep, on Nov. 5. Jim is survived by his wife Priscilla, daughter Rebecca and her husband Christopher Chase; son Eric and his wife Jolie; son Paul and wife Angela; son Robert and wife Kirstin Greene; and daughter Emily and husband Sunshine Mathon. He’s also survived by grandchildren Katie (28), Kai (27), Samuel (27), Timber (25), Nicholas (23), Cedar (21), Keenan (21), Kam (16), Ariel (15), Indigo (15), Kaiya (14), Nathanael (12) and Kestrel (10).
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