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James Roe Ketchum

March 15, 1939 February 21, 2024
James Roe Ketchum
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Obituary for James Roe Ketchum

James Roe Ketchum died February 21, 2024, in Carlisle, PA. Born in Rochester, NY in 1939, Jim grew up Clyde, NY and graduated in 1960 from Colgate University with a Bachelor’s degree in political science. Later that year, he moved to Washington, DC, to begin law school, but took a fortuitous detour when he accepted a position with the National Park Service at the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington, VA. In 1961, he began work at the White House where, after serving as curatorial assistant and registrar for art and furnishings, Jacqueline Kennedy appointed him as the curator at the age of 24 only weeks before the assassination of President Kennedy. Lady Bird Johnson then asked Jim to remain as curator to continue Mrs. Kennedy’s refurbishment of the 132-room mansion and expansion of its art collection. In 1970, he accepted the newly created position of curator of the United States Senate. Over the next 25 years, he oversaw the cataloguing of Senate fine and decorative art, historic objects, and architectural features; prepared publications and mounted exhibits about the history of the Senate; and supervised the restoration of historic rooms, including the old Senate and Supreme Court Chambers. He also became known for the annual dinners that he and his staff prepared for the Senate before the President’s State of the Union Address.


In addition to his work for the White House and Senate, Jim dedicated time to supporting fundraising and community activities in Washington, DC, from cooking up giant batches of chili for high school sports events to producing crafts to sell at grade school holiday bazaars to providing food and clothing to those living on the streets of the city.


After retiring from the Senate in 1995, Jim and his wife Barbara bid farewell to their life on Capitol Hill and relocated to a farmhouse in Gardners, PA where he continued to pursue his love of gardening, cooking, and entertaining. He is survived by sisters Kate Gibbs and Ellen Pullman; brothers Dick Ketchum and Dan Ketchum; son John (Katherine) Ketchum of Alexandria, VA, daughter Sarah (David) Baker of Hancock, ME, son Timothy (Carolyn) Ketchum of Portland, OR; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara, son Austin, sisters Joan Selner and Anne Orlando, and parents George and Mary Ketchum.


Private funeral services are being arranged by Monahan Funeral Home, Gettysburg, PA. Online condolences may be offered at monahanfuneralhome.com.


The family suggests that memorial contributions be made in Jim’s name to the Gettysburg Community Soup Kitchen (gettysburgsoupkitchen.org) or Capitol Hill Village (capitolhillvillage.org).

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