James “Jim” Witmer, 61, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Monday, Oct. 26, following a brief illness. Jim was born July 6, 1959 in Orrville, OH, to Daniel and Maxine (Landis) Witmer.
Throughout his thirty-five year career as a newspaper photojournalist and videographer (The Miami News in Florida, the Troy Daily News 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. His last works are striking, focused studies of nature made on a flatbed scanner next to his computer, with no traditional camera in sight.
Holding a B.F.A. from Ohio University, Jim supported the local arts and artists as a member of the Dayton Visual Arts Center and through his service on selection committees for shows at the Hayner Cultural Center in Troy, OH, 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, where he was the top-selling sales representative in the Dayton area and a mentor to the rest of his team. A version of his award-winning Mint Cookie Stout beer is now served as a seasonal favorite at Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton, where it can be enjoyed over the holidays for years to come.
Beyond his many accomplishments as an artist and craftsman, 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 (38); Lindsey (Patrick) Witmer Collins (34); and Adam (24); and the best Poppi to his grandchildren Rita (9), Hugh (2) and Eamon (2) - all surviving.
Jim is also survived by his father Daniel Witmer of Orrville, OH, 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 a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws 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 next year. Donations can be made in Jim’s name to the Stivers School for the Arts’ seedlings Foundation in Dayton or the Lincoln Community Center in Troy.
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