In Memoriam: James Yerkes

Three and a half years ago The John Updike Society lost contact with James Yerkes, well known to Updike scholars as the editor-publisher of The Centaurian newsletter. Now we are saddened to report that we have learned from Dave Lull, who served as Yerkes’ assistant for many years, that Yerkes passed away.

Lull managed to track down Yerkes’ daughter, Janet Winslow, who responded in an email, “I’m sorry to tell you that my father died in November 2018. My father fell and broke his pelvis on 10/31/17, and we moved him and my mother to assisted living in Indianapolis one month later. Unbeknownst to us at the time, he had a form of Parkinson’s that impacted both his physical and cognitive ability fairly quickly and significantly during his last year.”

For many years before the society was formed, The Centaurian served to unite academics and writers who were interested in the life, works, and legacy of John Updike. For his important and groundbreaking service to Updike studies, Yerkes was honored in 2010 as the first recipient of The John Updike Society’s Distinguished Service Award (pictured above). Due to his inability to travel, the award was presented to him on the society’s behalf by Rich Boulet, then director of the Blue Hill Public Library, a literary center in Maine near Yerkes’ home.

“I remember when Dad received this–he was so appreciative,” Winslow said. “My father’s Updike work was incredibly important and meaningful to him and provided a wonderful ‘place’ to put his energy and intellect in the years following retirement.”

Yerkes, Professor of Religion and Philosophy Emeritus and former provost of Moravian College, edited the important collection of essays on John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace, published by Eerdmans in December 1999. We will miss him.

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