James Quash Stevens Jr.

By October 12, 2012 Obituaries
James Quash Stevens, Jr. was born in Columbia, SC on February 22 1928.  In 1936 he and his family moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts where he attended WIlliam Lloyd Garrison Elementary School. He continued in the Boston School system, and joined the United States Army Air Corps from 1946-1949. Following his military service he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and then graduated from Boston University in 1954.James was an avid civil rights advocate and worked for the Federal government from 1958 until his retirement in 1989 as the EEOC Regional Director for New England.He met then Penelope Protze when they were students at BU and they were married in 1961. They lived briefly in Cleveland, OH and had their first child in 1962. They moved back to Massachusetts in 1964 and had there second child when they lived in Cambridge. And they settled in Newton, MA in 1969, and had their third child. They raised their three children through their college years, and after their respective retirementments in 1992 they moved to South Carolina and settled in Charleston.

James believed in inclusion, equality and demonstrated exceptional tolerance and courage.   He married Penny at a time when interracial relationships were taboo; he spoke up against injustices when he witnessed them.  He enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories and making time to nurture relationships and share opinions. He is remembered sharing stories and insights with his children’s friends   He took the time to slow down and value the special moments of  everyday life, to enjoy the people he loved and to make peace with those he didn’t.

For years he celebrated his birthday with his annual chili and music party.He was both the chef and creator of the event and he spent the evening well into the next morning reveling in playing jazz with his friends. The house was always chock full of friends having great fun.

James was a tender and compassionate man who believed in justice and raised his children to always find the best in people and the beauty of the world. He was known for opening his home to neighbors, friends and anyone he felt needed some extra love in their lives.  He was a man of generous heart who shared what he had, whether it was through donations to a wide range of  charities or his volunteer work helping less privileged youth in the Job Corps, cleaning up with the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands and a long list of other organizations. He was also a mentor and role model to many and has touched many people’s lives.

His interests were wide ranging and his knowledge vast: Jazz, art, the sea, aviation, family history and civil rights were among his passions.

He was a self taught musician inspired by the likes of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and the other greats of his time. When he wasn’t singing, his instrument of choice was the tenor saxophone. He also played a host of other instruments from drums to flute and everything in between.  He played with several bands professionally throughout his life, but he preferred to play for fun and the love of the music. He could often be found sitting in with a local jazz band and enjoyed jamming with like minded musicians. He taught Jazz Appreciation classes for seniors and in Charleston he found a group of kindred spirits, old dudes, who would hang out at a local music store, tell tales and play music.

James was also a man of the ocean. He had a passion for sailing and loved going to see the Tall Ships whenever he could. He spent many years volunteering with The Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands and with the Coast Guard  Auxiliary. Life upon the ocean brought him great calm and joy. He shared this love with his family and friends.

James is fondly remembered by friends and family as he shared experience and wisdom with all who would listen. He is survived by his wife, Penelope, his children, James Quash III, Jeffrey William, and Gabrielle Lyn, as well as his grandchildren, Jake, Pilar, Sloane and Apollo.

Private services will be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at Virginia’s on King  St. in Downtown Charleston from 2:30 – 5:00 pm.  In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in his honor to any or all of the following charities: Friends of Boston Harbor Islands, The Kidney Foundation, and/or The Southern Poverty Law Center.  The family will  be honoring Jim’s wish to throw a huge party in Boston sometime in the spring or summer of 2013, where all will be welcome to share in celebrating Jim’s zest for life – a chili party or Boat Cruise.  Date and time to be determined.


  • Peter Bates says:

    Dear Jimmy and Gabi,

    I am sorry to hear of your father’s passing. You may not remember me but I was one or both of your teachers at Weeks and possibly South. You were both wonderful kids of whom I’m sure your Dad was very proud. Remember the good times that you shared with him and your family. Please extend my condolences to your Mom and brother.

    Peter Bates

  • Gabi says:

    Mr. Bates! Oh my goodness! Could never forget you! Sheila Wilcox and I still talk about our favorite teachers and memories at South and I know she recently saw you last May for his sister Cecelia. I cannot even believe you found this information. Thank you so much for reaching out. What an honor that you wrote to us! I hope you are well and are still enjoying teaching. It is really incredible to hear from you … Cannot thank you enough for such warm words. We are all well – reveling in the memories of our Dad! Perhaps when I make it to Boston next summer our paths may cross. All the best to you.


  • Soma says:

    I am touched and moved by reading the notice. A great man who I respected very much. May he be in heaven!