James Renberg, 87, of Pinehurst, North Carolina passed away peacefully at home on January 4, 2023. He was born May 22, 1935, in Saratoga, Wisconsin, the son of Benjamin Axel and Sabina Mae (nee Knuteson) Renberg. He grew up in Olympia, Washington, and graduated from Olympia High School in 1953. Jim then spent a year at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois before transferring to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. There he became the first of a three-generational chain of Renbergs to gain a degree from Baylor. He took a bachelor’s and a master’s in history with a thesis on stalwart university president Samuel Palmer Brooks.
While at Baylor he met and subsequently married Hettye Sue “Cissy” Downs. After both graduated from Baylor, Jim took a teaching post in history at Dixie Heights High School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. There he was a revered class sponsor and tough taskmaster in the classroom. The couple moved to Madison, Wisconsin where Jim began doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin. Jim’s first son, Eric James, was born there in October of 1963. From there the couple moved to Durham, North Carolina where Jim continued doctoral work at Duke University. He then took a teaching post at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas where his sons Christopher Ellis and Benjamin Robert were born in 1967 and 1969 respectively. From there, Jim returned to Wisconsin to teach history at Carroll College (now Carroll University) where he became a favored and recognized professor. In 1974, the family moved to Texas, living first in Plantersville before settling in Navasota. There, Jim taught history at Texas A&M University.
In 1991, he moved to Southern Pines, North Carolina to build a life with Sue Clagett Young. While they redid a historic home in town, Jim taught history at various schools in the area: Campbell College (now Campbell University), Methodist University, and St. Andrews University. Until his retirement, he was an enthusiastic educator in any classroom he inhabited. Always open and eager to talk about history, Jim reveled in passing favored books on to his colleagues and his students. An avid bibliophile, Jim would never balk at perusing a bookstore and amassed a library of over 15,000 volumes, many of which were donated to the Fayetteville Public Library before his passing.
When he was not teaching, he was an enthusiastic member of book clubs, learned to become a novice potter, golfed occasionally in the Sandhills area, and was a hard worker in the Pinehurst Trace community library. Jim also worked tirelessly as a political advocate on the local and national level with he and Sue caucusing for John Edwards in Iowa during his presidential run. He was a friend to many, a witty raconteur, and loved celebrating his affinity for history (particularly Abraham Lincoln) with any and everyone.
A special thank you to Suzanne Coleman and the staff at FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care for taking care of him in his last days.
Jim was preceded in death by his mother, his father, his younger brother, George Axel, and his first wife, Hettye Sue Renberg Smith.
Survivors include his partner/wife, Sue Young, and his three sons, Eric James Renberg and Christopher Ellis Renberg of Navasota, Texas, and Benjamin Robert Renberg and wife April of Dallas, Texas; two brothers, Gordon “John” Renberg of Houston, Texas and Stephen Peter Renberg of Seattle, Washington; one sister, Bernita Ann “Bunny” Renberg Smith of Olympia, Washington, and two grandchildren, Elaine Kate Moore of Dallas, Texas, and Robert Charles Renberg of Houston, Texas. In addition, he leaves behind various family members, a vast number of former students, colleagues, and a community filled with love and appreciation.
A celebration of his life will be held in the clubhouse at Pinehurst Trace Retirement Community in Pinehurst, North Carolina on Friday, January 20th at 3:30 p.m.
Care of the family is entrusted to Crumpler Funeral Home-Aberdeen.
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