James R. Thiry, former director of personnel at the University of Michigan, died March 5 surrounded by his loving family. He was 88.
Thiry, a resident of Hamburg Township on Strawberry Lake for 40 years, was born in Green Bay Wisconsin on Dec. 12, 1930, the second son of Lawrence and Alvina (Miller) Thiry. A 1948 graduate of Green Bay East High School, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree from University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1952. He served two years in the U.S. Army at Fort Sill Oklahoma and was honorably discharged as a sergeant in the Battalion Personnel Office.
In 1953, Thiry married Carol Ann Campbell (his sweetheart for 66 years) who survives with their seven children: Steven (Madeline) and their children, Heather and Kaitlyn; Julie Peterson (Keith) and their children, Nathan Lehman and his children, Connor and Abigale Jo; Sarah Lehman Mitchell (Trevor) and their children Elaina, Caris and Isaac; David (Clara) and their children Henry and Wyatt; Daniel (John Bernthal); Thomas (Carla) and his child Whitney; Theodore and Timothy (Petey Campi). Also surviving are nieces and nephews: Linda, Kent, Jill, Craig, Kay and Don R. Thiry; Brother-in-law Daryl (Helen) Campbell and their children Chris (Peggy) Campbell and Kathy Campbell O’Dell (Ken).
Following discharge from the Army, Carol and Jim settled in La Porte, Indiana, where he joined the professional service of the Boy Scouts of America as a field executive serving La Porte and Stark counties. This capped his youth membership in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts (Eagle rank), Sea Scouts and Order of the Arrow lodge chief. Thiry was employed during high school and college at the BSA Bear Paw summer camp, rising in position from kitchen help to waterfront director.
In 1956, Thiry began eight years of employment at the La Porte works of Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company as assistant personnel director. He served as a member of the plant bargaining committee and worked in job analysis and employee-community relations. In 1964, Carol, Jim and family moved to Ann Arbor to join the administrative staff of U-M as assistant manager of staff benefits. With the advent of public employee collective bargaining Thiry was teamed with the late university labor attorney Bill Lemmer and was appointed manager of staff and union relations and later assistant director of the University Personnel Office.
In 1974, Jim accepted the position of director of personnel at the University of Rochester and began the adventure of negotiating labor contracts with Local 1199 of the National Union of Hospital and Health care Employees.
In 1979 he returned to U-M as director of personnel. He retired in 1994 and is a past president of the University Retirees Association. During his service to U-M, Thiry participated in the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, serving as chair of the Michigan Chapter, the Midwest Region, founding the Upstate New York Chapter, member of the national board of directors and national president. He was named an Honorary Life Member of CUPA-HR in 1994.
The Thirys were a founding family of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Hamburg where Jim served on the Administration Ministry and was the first president of the Parish Council. In recognition of his BSA volunteer service in cub and scout units and district committees, his years on the council executive board, plus his community service as founding co-commissioner of Hamburg Youth Soccer, Thiry was awarded the Silver Beaver Distinguished Service Award by BSA in 1985.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Don (Dec. 14, 1927-Oct. 31, 2011) and beloved grandson Tate Thiry (Oct. 2, 1993-Sept. 5, 2012).
He loved Carol and their extended family, the Green Bay Packers, (he was a Packer stockholder) volunteering in the graphics section at the Clements Library, anything happening in or on the water and especially snorkeling with Carol and the “kids” on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thiry was a remarkable man who had a love of travel and adventure. He hosted each of his seven children on vigorous trips that included snorkeling in Belize, a jungle lodge in Amazonia, birding in Panama, and travel to Iceland, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, and Isle Royale. His kids often had no idea where he and Carol had gotten off to.
Jim and Carol were devoted fans of their grandchildren and logged innumerable hours travelling to recitals, sporting events, theatrical performances (including NYC) and commencement exercises.
Thiry’s family would like to thank the staff from National and Brightstar Home Care for their special care and concern, and Arbor Hospice for Thiry’s end-of-life care. Jim and Carol felt blessed with a wonderful family and dear friends. His kindness and generosity will be missed by all who knew him.
Memorial contributions are suggested to Dawn Farms of Ann Arbor. Please leave a message of comfort for Thiry’s family at 877-231-7900, or sign his guestbook at www.borekjennings.com.