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News > Chapter News > In Memoriam: James Straw

In Memoriam: James Straw

STRAW JAMES BENNETT, 76, of Philadelphia died from complications of leukemia on August 8, 2022. Jim, an only child and the last Straw, was born on April 4, 1946. He is survived by his wife, Keith Ratrie Straw, and ten nieces and nephews whom he loved dearly. With a keen intellect and boundless energy, Jim served in leadership roles at his beloved church, Old Pine Street Presbyterian, and was an active leader in various non-profit and community organizations. During his 48 years in Philadelphia, he served as a Commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation; Board Chair of Partners for Sacred Places; Executive Committee Board Member of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts; Chair of the Opera Philadelphia Board; Chair of Astral Artists; Chair of the Philadelphia Flower Show Executive Committee; President of the Philadelphia Chamber Ensemble; President of the Union League of Philadelphia; President of the Orpheus Club of Philadelphia; and Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League. As President of the O. V. Catto Memorial Fund, Jim coordinated, with Carol Lawrence, the project that resulted in the statue of Catto that now graces the southwest apron of Philadelphia City Hall. Jim earned degrees in Building Sciences and Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master's degree in Urban Design from Columbia University.

From 2009 until his retirement in 2014, Jim was the Managing Principal of KSK Architects Planners Historians; previously he led the firm's Preservation Practice. He worked on several major, award-winning projects, developing expertise in both preservation architecture and in the planning and design of cultural facilities. Jim spearheaded urban design and historic preservation projects in Cairo, Egypt, and Tianjin, China. He served as Principal-in-Charge of the design of the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, W.Va., and of several national award-winning restoration and adaptive reuse projects including: the historic Ridgway Library Building as the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts; and Memorial Hall, a National Historic Landmark in the Centennial District of Philadelphia, as the Please Touch Museum. A lover of music, Jim was a vocalist in the Orpheus Club and played multiple instruments, principally the flute. He had a discerning eye for art, with a special interest in the works of female artists. Jim was an accomplished sailor, and his passions for gourmet cooking, clay shooting, and fly fishing were legendary. He served as Delegue Generale of East Coast chapters of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Jim and his extended family enjoyed many happy gatherings at Stuart Manor, an historic home in Lewisburg, W.Va., lovingly restored under his guidance.

A celebration of life will be held at 5 P.M. on October 21, 2022, at the Union League; those planning to attend are requested to RSVP to [email protected] by October 10th. Gifts to honor Jim's memory may be given to Astral Artists, Broad Street Ministry, or Old Pine Conservancy.

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