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James Woolum

1921 - 2006

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James Woolum in 1966
(1966 yearbook)

James Woolum

Much later

(Obituary from the Clayton Pioner, published 2006, added here 2011.)

Jim Woolum, a native of Kansas and a seasoned mathematics instructor, died at home in Clayton.

When the Clayton Wood subdivision was being built in the 1950s, the Woolums anxiously awaited the completion of their new home in Clayton. Mr. Woolum joined the staff at Clayton Valley High School when it opened in September 1958 and taught there until his retirement. His tenure with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District spanned 37 years.

After earning a Bachelor's degree from San Jose State, Jim graduated with a Master's degree in the teaching of mathematics from Stanford.

His contact with students did not end in class, as he stayed at school until 3:30 or later to help any students with questions. He also tutored students in his home every Monday evening. In addition to his academic endeavors, Jim was an avid supporter of the high school sports programs. He rarely missed a wrestling match and spent countless hours with the track team. He attended baseball games, watched the basketball team and cheered the football players.

Many of his former pupils kept in touch with him through the years. He took great delight that in his normal routine as a resident of Clayton, he would encounter teens from long ago who fondly remembered him.

The son of Charles and Bertha Harmon Woolum, Jim met Georgia Cozad at a restaurant in Palo Alto when he was an Army soldier in 1944. Being of considerable stature himself, Jim looked for the tallest girl in the room to ask for a dance. After a brief courtship, they married in Washington state.

Jim is survived by his beloved wife, Georgia, of Clayton and cherished children Sharon Trueman of Washington; Linda Lee of New Mexico and Jim Woolum of Clayton.

He was the dear Granddad to grandchildren Chuck Trueman and Kerry Bash of Washington and Nicole Gaines of Oklahoma, and great grandchildren Chad Bash of Washington, Haley Gaines, Erika Gaines and Mariah Gaines of Oklahoma. Brother Wayne Woolum of Colorado and sisters Freda Troy of Arizona and Nancy Cramer of West Virginia also survive him.

Jim was affiliated with the Math Association of America and the Retired Teachers Association. He earned the Governor's Award for teaching from 1976 to 1980.

The man was passionate about genealogy, and he and Georgia spent many summers in their motor home touring the country to visit relatives. Jim was an avid photographer and loved to play his guitar and sing.

His final resting place is Oakmont Memorial Park in Lafayette. Memorial contributions are preferred to the Clayton Historical Society, P.O. Box 94, Clayton CA 94517.


One of my favorite memories of him happened long before I got into high school. When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher put me in charge of the "Math tools" corner of the room for Open House. I was to demonstrate my skill with the abacus and slide rule, for the edification and amusement of the parents. My first customer was Mr. Lipanovich, a man who hit .677 in our father-son softball game but whose math skills were limited to practical things a carpenter uses every day. He thought I was a wizard.

Quite full of myself, I asked the next parent to stop by if he knew how to use a slide rule. His daughter, Linda Woolum, made a strangled noise. As a matter of fact, he did. Six years later, when I was in his calculus class, we laughed about it.

On a more serious note, when he discussed the right thing to do (which he did, more often than most math teachers), he'd often tell us that when he had a difficult choice he'd ask himself what the men he admired most would do. One was his former crew chief in the CCC, one was his dad. He's one of the three I use, when I ask myself that same question.

Ted Pack

Mr. Woolum was my neighbor in Clayton Woods and one of the nicest guys ever to sport a pocket protecter. Some of the gang in the 'hood were over at his house when he broke out a guitar and sang the blues for us one time. We were in awe that he would blow his cover so casually. I guess man cannot live by Elementary Functions alone. Come to think of it - that sounds like a song ... He seemed like a great dad as well - Hi Linda and Jim. I bet you miss him.

Joe New

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This page updated: June 20, 2014