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James Ritter Warner

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James Ritter Werner

James Ritter Werner

Dr. James Ritter Werner, of Dayton’s Five Oaks neighborhood and Yellow Springs, died on Sunday, Jan. 5, from complications due to chronic leukemia.

James was preceded in death by his father, James Frederick Werner, and his mother, Mary Louise (nee Neiheisel) Werner of Cincinnati. Ritter was raised in Cincinnati, attending the Archbishop Choir School and graduating from Purcell High School. In 1972, he completed his doctorate in organ performance at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where his father and grandfather, both violinists in the Cincinnati Symphony, had studied and taught violin performance and where he met his lovely bride, Bonnie Sahadi Werner. They married in 1971.

He was third organist at Canterbury Cathedral, England, soon thereafter. He later accepted multiple organist positions in Dayton, playing longest at Immaculate Conception, Holy Angels and Corpus Christi churches and Beth Abraham and Temple Israel synagogues. He graced virtually every organ bench in Dayton, touching the lives of many choir members, students and anyone who heard his voice.

James also obtained a Master’s in theological studies from United Theological Seminary and loved his work with the award-winning multi-media translations team for the American Bible Society. He was fulfilled to the end by teaching children and adults music, organ and religious studies at local schools and colleges, completing his last course emphasizing students’ spiritual evolution at University of Dayton in December.

Recognizable for his unruly beard, bow ties and jaunty beret (occasionally covered by a bicycle helmet), he was known for his intense love of people, his witty conversation and many stories. His greatest joy was being a husband to Bonnie, papa to Martha, Sarah, Leah and Joshua and grandfather to Naomi, Mina, Liliane, Rowen and Dorothea. He shared a special musical bond with his eldest granddaughter, Naomi, a talented young cellist. He was saddened to miss the birth of his son Joshua’s first child.

James is survived by his sister Elaine Dumont (née Werner) and her husband Jamie Hutchison of Calgary, Canada; his wife of 42 years, Bonnie; his children Martha Werner Brown, her husband Eric Brown and children Naomi Guth, Mina and Rowen Brown of Yellow Springs; Sarah Werner Kiewitz, her husband Christian Kiewitz and daughters Liliane and Dorothea Kiewitz of Oakwood; Leah Werner of Dayton; and Joshua Werner and his wife Mary Lange Werner of Dayton. In lieu of flowers, please give to East End Community Services to support their partnership with DPO’s Q the Music, which teaches Ruskin School students to play string instruments and love music.

Viewing was held on Sunday, Jan. 12 at Jackson, Lytle and Lewis funeral home, with the funeral service on Monday, Jan. 13 at Christ Episcopal Church in Xenia, with Pastor Lynn Sinnott officiating. Burial followed at Glen Forest Cemetery Condolences may be expressed to the family at


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