Farewell to a Renaissance man

If you’re a regular reader of WAG, then you may remember Audrey Ronning Topping’s affectionate piece on retired Col. James W. Reid in our March 2015 issue. Sadly, Reid recently passed away. Here is Audrey’s obituary on him:

Retired Col. James W. Reid – the scholar, adventurer, artist and decorated officer who “lifted the veil” on ancient Peruvian textiles – died Dec. 4 in White Plains Hospital. His wife, Riet, said the cause was complications from leukemia. He was 83.

During the Vietnam War, Reid received the Legion of Merit for “outstanding meritorious services” during the Vietnam War. (He also saw combat in the Korean Conflict.) In the 1970s, Reid served as an American military attaché in Argentina and Bolivia.

It was a time of left-wing terrorist activities there, but it also afforded the polyglot Reid the opportunity to plumb what became a grand passion — the art, archaeology, history, religion, sociology and political institutions of pre-Columbian South America. This culminated in one of his 16 books, “Magic Feathers: Textile Art from Ancient Peru” (Textile & Art Publications, 2005), which, according to art historian Federico Kauffman Doig, “finally lifted the veil that for so long has enveloped feather art.”

For his exploration of Peru, Reid was elected a member of The Explorers Club.

He was also an artist in his own right, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and exhibiting vibrant portraits and landscapes throughout the world. In 1972, he was elected a lifetime member of Paris’ Salon d’Automne, an annual art exhibit since 1903.

James W. Reid was born in London to an American mother who hailed from Smithtown, Long Island and a British military officer and UN diplomat. His father came from an old Scottish family and Reid’s great-grandfather administered Oudh, northern India for Queen Victoria until 1890.

Reid’s academic background included Winchester College, Princeton University (B.A.) and Stanford University (M.A.) as well at studies at L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris and doctoral work at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.

A Hartsdale resident, Reid was an animal lover who served with a beloved dog in Korea. He contributed generously to animal shelters in Westchester County and South America. He was a true Renaissance man because of his eclectic interests and fluent knowledge of seven languages, including Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Quechua, the language of the ancient Incas still used by South America’s Andean Indians. Among his other careers was serving as a lecturer aboard Holland America and Celebrity Cruises, delivering more than 1,000 presentations illustrated by his own photographs. He also founded the cultural enrichment Flagship Forum program.

In addition to wife Riet, Reid is survived by sons James A. and Pascal C. Reid, four grandchildren and a sister, Ginny Hansen.

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