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R. James Tobin

May 04, 1937 - Mar 11, 2023


R. James Tobin died during the morning of March 11, 2023. He was in the Intensive Care Unit, having been taken to Aurora Medical Center by ambulance on March 1, and his wife Jean was with him, holding his hand. He was eighty-five.
Jim was born May 4, 1937, in Newark, New Jersey, son of James Edward Tobin and Claire Lorraine Tobin and grew up in the New York area, where he attended Fordham University, receiving degrees in history, before moving to Wisconsin in 1961.
At the University of Wisconsin he studied history, philosophy, and library science. Jim held five degrees: his B.A., three M.A.s, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. From 1964-1970 he taught European history at UW-Green Bay, UW Marinette, and UW Baraboo. Later he taught philosophy at Christopher Newport College in Virginia and from 1977 to 1980 he was Assistant Editor of the Philosopher’s Index Retrospective Indexing Project, which led to a new career in library service. After six years at Boston College and many years at UW-Milwaukee he retired on January 1, 2004, as a senior administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, in charge of purchasing for the library collections.
Research took Jim to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and to Boston, Dartmouth, and Austin, Texas to conduct interviews and to hear long-unperformed music. In 2014, he published Neoclassical Music in America: Voices of Clarity and Restraint. His book was well-received. He was invited to speak about his work by the Library of Congress and did so, flying to Washington D. C. that December.
Early in his teenage years, Jim developed strong interests that remained with him for life: classical music, photography, and the natural world, particularly birds. In later years he reviewed many books and recordings for, an online archive. He displayed his nature and travel photographs at the UW-Sheboygan Fine Art Gallery, Plymouth Art Center and the John Michael Art Center. As a member of the Audubon Society he participated in the semi-annual bird counts. With his wife and six others he co-founded the Sheboygan Area Land Conservancy, now the Glacial Lakes Conservatory, and served as co-chair during the period when they raised $1.9 million dollars for the acquisition of Point Creek. He also served for a number of years on the Town of Wilson Park and Forestry Commission, including as chair.
Jim loved theater, was especially fond of the American Players Theater in Spring Green, and was himself onstage as an actor, in Green Bay and Sheboygan, with significant roles in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “A Servant of Two Masters,” “The Misanthrope,” Beckett’s “Act without Words I,” “Equus,” “Jake’s Women,” and “Dancing at Lughnasa.” Travel was a joy; Jim traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, spent several weeks in China and Japan, and visited Mexico and Canada often.
Jim met his wife Jean in fall 1967 and asked her out for that night. They were together until his death, marrying on April 11, 1969, and enjoying almost 55 years of marriage. They spent much of that time living in Black River, the wooded area just south of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Philip Tobin and Robert Tobin, his sister Jean Galletta, his brother-in-law Gene Galletta, his sisters-in-law Elena Tobin, Jeanne Tobin, and Tary Tobin, and nephews Paul Galletta and Robert Tobin. He is survived by his wife, Jean Tobin, his brother David Tobin and a wonderful array of much-loved nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life is being planned for later this spring.



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Edward V. George

I had great respect for Jim and enjoyed his company, especially during the year when we shared a house as fellow graduate students in the early sixties. My deep condolences to Jean and to all those close to him.

Mary Kohl

Dear Jean, I am so glad I got to know You & Jim through SALC/GLC, and even knowing Jim earlier in Sierra Club. He was so knowledgeable to chat with & had a good sense of humor too! You are truly in my thoughts…and hope to stay in touch with you. Mary K