Cover photo for James Thomas Lawless's Obituary
James Thomas Lawless Profile Photo
1937 James 2021

James Thomas Lawless

January 13, 1937 — April 12, 2021


James Thomas Lawless, IV age 84, passed away on April 12. Born in Toledo, Ohio, on January 13, 1937, he was the son of James III and Polly (Leet) Lawless. He graduated from Scott High School and the University of Toledo. Surviving are his wife Cecily (nee MacKenzie), daughters Catherine Lawless and Jennifer Lawless (Tim) Roth, grandchildren Patrick Lawless Maher, Maddie, Will and Evan Roth, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, Peter Lawless.

Jim was an aggressive, ethical and dedicated newsman. After working for newspapers in Toledo, Flint and New York, Jim was an associate in the News Service at Kent State University where he had the pleasure of interviewing visiting guests such as R. Buckminster Fuller, Allen Ginsberg, and Lily Tomlin. Following that, he was a reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 26 years, where he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is perhaps best remembered for his time as a Plain Dealer reporter when he covered the utilities beat. He invested much of his time on the electric utility with a particular interest in nuclear energy. He covered the meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island and developed sources that alerted him to issues at the nearby Perry Nuclear Power Plant. Jim provided a true public service by frequently writing about problems at that facility. Jim disdained verbose writing and opted for simple sentences, occasionally sprinkling in humor. In the newsroom, one of Jim's many attributes was his fatherly way of helping younger reporters learn. Never one to mince words, if Jim paid you a compliment, you knew it was sincere.

His family remembers him being always the first one up on Christmas morning, and finding ever more ingenious hiding places for Easter baskets. He was a storyteller: a newspaper reporter, poet, incorrigible grandchild braggart, sharer of all things interesting (by cc to everyone he knew, daily, by email); a food lover: he'd arm wrestle you for the turkey leg or the last piece of bacon or cherry pie; a fighter: polio survivor, union rep, rabble-rouser, with a sometimes loud and gruff demeanor; and a bear-hugging, fiercely loyal friend and loving grandfather, dad and husband, who was genuinely interested in everyone he met (and always insisted on picking up the check). He was president of the South Euclid Commission on Aging, working to improve the lives of the elderly in our community. Jim was an enthusiastic woodworker, book collector, stained glass maker, gardener, baker, and enjoyed sharing what he created. If you knew Jim, you have at one time received a poem, a loaf of bread, a bag of tomatoes or a batch of paczkis. He was a lifelong writer of verse who also taught a class on writing poetry to local residents. He published three books of his poems, the most recent about his family, most of whom, he quipped, "have been subjected to my poetry." Gifts in Jim's memory may be made to the Environmental Defense Fund or the Cleveland Food Bank.

The family of James Lawless invites friends to join in a celebration of life party on Saturday, July 10th, between 5:00 - 7:00 pm.
If you'd like to attend, please e-mail so we can advise you the address of the private home.

Please sign the guestbook on this site and leave a message for the family. Thank You.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Thomas Lawless, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Celebration of Life Party

Saturday, July 10, 2021

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Private Home


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