James Arthur Soden, 1922 - 2009 - - An Appreciation
"....nec illi, quod est rarissimum, aut facilitas auctoritatem aut severitas amorem deminuit.”“….yet in his case, the rarest of cases, neither did amiability impair authority nor strictness affection.”(Tacitus, Agricola, 9,3)
In November 2009 , a great Soden passed on. James Arthur Soden, born October 20th, 1922, passed away at the age of 87 in Toronto.Tacitus’ remarks about his father-in-law, Agricola, governor of Britain could well apply to Jim Soden.
His career was spectacular, he achieved success in every sphere he entered, the respect he attained from his contemporaries, superiors and subordinates, can be judged by the obituaries and messages of praise and regret at his passing.I knew Jim Soden through our common passion, Soden family history. Wherever you went in your investigations into our family history, you could bet Jim Soden had been there. A generation separated us but he in common with a small few, John Voorhis Soden (New York), Terence Soden (England) and Ronald Soden (Wales) pursued assiduously and thoroughly the multi-sided history of the Soden family. No greater pleasure was there for him than to talk about Soden members who had fought at the Battle of Waterloo or had explored the South Seas, or had been decorated in the World Wars.It was tremendously rewarding to know that someone else was enthralled with a similar aim, but even more gratifying to read what they had discovered.
His tenacious pursuit of the family history brought him to Soden areas from Washington State through Ontario, Canada to Germany, England and Ireland. Any and every opportunity was used to learn more about our background. An essential pre-requisite for this was a profound knowledge of the social, political, economic and religious history of an area. This he acquired and applied not just through travel but through his voluminous reading. His incisive memory, legal analytical mind and lively willingness to never be hindered by political correctness led him to ask questions of one about the past which only served to clarify matters more honestly with an open mind rather than taking an easier a priori approach preferred by many in family history.
He did not suffer spoofers, reviled at those who saw family history as a chance to wallow in imagined glories and aristocratic phantasies, and always appreciated the work, sufferings and sacrifices of his Soden ancestors.
I recall always with the greatest pleasure our meetings in Dublin , Toronto and above all in Sligo in 2000 at the first Soden Reunion, about hearing his and his wife, Edna’s, research experiences in Dublin , Sligo and Germany.
If you told your son go out into the world and do well, and he came back to you many years later a successful businessman, an astute academic, a war hero, and a much-loved and revered family man, a recipient of his country's highest award, you could only say , ‘Well done’. Jim Soden not only by his achievements but in his person has left all Sodens a remarkably proud legacy.
As the Irish saying goes,
Nil aon letheid ar fheicail aris
(We shall not see his likes again)
Requiescat in pace.