James Edward Sturm, 91, of Wassergass in Lower Saucon Township, passed away peacefully on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 2021. He was the husband of the late Margaret Ruth Sturm, who passed away Oct. 18, 2016. James was defined by his unassailable integrity, his sense of virtue and selflessness, and his genuine love and care for his family. His friendly and humorous manner helped him relate to anyone around him, even the stranger. James was born in New Ulm, Minn., on March 28, 1930 to the late Bernard J. Sturm and Magdalene J. Foerster. His cherished childhood memories included visiting with family, fishing and skating on the Minnesota River and working odd jobs. With no family car, he walked everywhere in the quintessential midwestern town, and never minded the cold. After graduating from New Ulm High School, he graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and earned his PhD in chemistry from Notre Dame. He did post-doctorate work at the University of Wisconsin. In 1956, he accepted a faculty position at Lehigh University in the Department of Chemistry. Jim and Margaret bought the one-room Wassergass Schoolhouse in Lower Saucon, Pa., in 1959, and he was the creative force in transforming the school into a family home where they lovingly raised seven children. While at Lehigh, he taught physical chemistry, nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry. He performed research involving chemical kinetics, radiation chemistry and photochemistry, as well as pioneered lab reporting protocols. He was a longstanding member of the American Chemical Society. Drawing from his upbringings in “the most German town in America,” he used his German skills to translate chemistry journal articles. He retired from Lehigh in 1995. James (“Jim”) lived to serve and always put others first, as evidenced by his many years in community service. He was a current member of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church, Hellertown, where he served as a lector. He was a long-time volunteer and past President of the Saucon Valley Community Center, as well as office holder and volunteer for the Hellertown Historical Society, Lower Saucon Township Historical Society, Lutz‑Franklin Schoolhouse and a Bushman during the 1976 Bicentennial. Inspired by a railroad watch left to him by his father, Jim became an avid watch collector, repairman and foremost expert on antique pocket and railroad watches. He was an active member of the National Watch and Clock Collectors Association. Always quick with a limerick or pun, he was an enthusiast of the poet and humorist Ogden Nash, and presented many seminars on his work to the senior community.
Children: Johanna S. (Mark) Chehi of Durham, Karl V. (Julie) Sturm of Houston, Texas, Madeleine A. (Ron Bridges) Sturm of Kintnersville, Eric J. (Margaret) Sturm of Wilmington, Del., Gretchen M. (John) Burkholder of Lancaster, Hans B. (Barbara) Sturm of Upper Black Eddy, Kristen E. (Dale) Howard of Villa Hills, Ky.; grandchildren: Stephen, Missy Chehi, Matthew Sturm, James Thompson, Jessica, Justin Sturm, Heidi, Jehu Burkholder, Jimmy Sturm. He was predeceased by siblings: Bernard J., Monica A. Sturm.
Family and friends are invited to call from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at the Heintzelman Funeral Home Inc., 326 Main St., Hellertown. The calling hour will be followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church, 1408 Easton Road, Hellertown. The interment will conclude services at Union Cemetery of Hellertown. Mourners are encouraged to make positive choices by following CDC guidelines. Online expressions of sympathy can be recorded at HeintzelmanCares.com.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Saucon Valley Community Center, P.O. Box 111, Hellertown, PA 18055 and/or the Saucon Valley Conservancy Inc., P.O. Box 3, Hellertown, PA 18055, or donations may be made to the Borough of Hellertown, 685 Main St., Hellertown, for a tree to be planted within the park system in memory of Dr. James Sturm.