James McConville

James B. McConville

February 12, 1944 - January 12, 2020
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James B. McConville passed away on January 12, 2020 in the comfort of his home, surrounded by family who lovingly cared for him. “Jim” was a truly remarkable human. Undeterred by illness, he spent the last of his days using contemporary engineering methods to re-design World War II aircraft and writing engineering texts spanning across a wide range of topics from virtual prototyping to the intersection of finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics. He self-published Talewinds, a collection of aviation stories in 2018.

In addition to being an accomplished engineer and author, Jim was a loving father and husband, a rugby player, a philosopher, a teacher and an artist. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement was managing these roles with an earnest humility, which cracked only subtly if conversation stumbled upon his esoteric passions.
Jim was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on February 12, 1944 to Wanda L. McConville (nee Flanders) and Major John B. McConville, an infantry officer in WWII who died unexpectedly when Jim was a teenager. The moral and physical courage of his father during that war left a lasting impact on Jim, who carried a zeal for WWII history all of his life.

Jim spent most of his childhood in upstate New York and graduated from Rye High School in 1961. He studied Aeronautical Engineering and German at the University of Virginia until 1966. He credited his work under the auspices of Dr. Walter Heilbronner (a German Jew who narrowly escaped the holocaust) and Dr. William Zuk as playing a pivotal role in his life. After graduating from UVA, he took a job with the Lockheed Corporation in Marietta, Georgia. It was there that he stumbled upon another hobby, Rugby, and became a member of the Atlanta Rugby Football Club.

Jim’s time in Georgia allowed him to nurture his penchant for languages with the pursuit of a Master’s degree in Language Education from the University of Georgia. His studies were succeeded by work with Clark Equipment Company, Ingersoll Rand, and Mechanical Dynamics (now MSC Software). Jim’s tenure at Mechanical Dynamics/MSC was the highlight of his professional career. He spoke enthusiastically about his colleagues until the day he died. For Jim’s work in developing technical models and methods as well as his mentoring and inspiring of colleagues and customers alike, MSC recognized him with a Technical Fellowship in 2014.

Jim’s stint with Clark Equipment company in the late 70s brought him to Battle Creek where he happened upon one particular Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Dowdle. Liz and Jim were married 26 April, 1980. He often remarked that meeting Liz was the best thing that ever happened to him, and that he not only fell in love with her, but with her entire family.

With his background, it should not be surprising that Jim was at ease discussing theoretical physics, philosophy, engineering, and World War II but that small talk was not his forte, so he often resorted to a collection of endearing one-liners, most notably,
“Go get ‘em, tiger!”

It was difficult to watch Jim suffer in the later part of his life, but this was assuaged in part by the caretakers who loved Jim as if he were their own (and partook in his engineering projects as he dictated instructions). He considered himself fortunate to bask in the warmth and affection of the family and friends who came together to support him to the very end.

Jim is survived by his wife, Mary E. McConville; his son, Maj Sean C. McConville (USAF); his daughter, Katherine M. McConville and her fiancé, Michigan State Trooper, Frank Tafralian; and many beloved in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; and his brother, John F. McConville. Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 10:00 AM with a memorial gathering beforehand at 9:00 AM at St. Mary Student Parish; 331 Thompson St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 (Parking available next-door in the city parking structure, payment required).
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Service Details

  • Memorial Gathering

    Saturday January 18, 2020 | 9:00am - 10:00am
    Saturday January 18, 2020 9:00am - 10:00am
    St. Mary Student Parish
    331 Thompson Street
    Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Memorial Service

    Saturday January 18, 2020 | 10:00am
    Saturday January 18, 2020 10:00am
    St. Mary Student Parish
    331 Thompson Street
    Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Tony, Jacqui, Axel and OP

Posted at 10:31am
Please accept our most heartfelt sympathies for your loss. May the memories you share bring you comfort in this difficult time. With love,
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Tony, Jacqui, Axel and OP purchased flowers for the family of James B. McConville.


Martin Olsson (MDI/MSC)

Posted at 04:21am
You are in my thoughts. Thank you for your help, wisdom, kindness and interesting discussions during my time in Ann Arbor (97-98). I miss you a lot!
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Martin Olsson (MDI/MSC) purchased flowers for the family of James B. McConville.


Barton, Katie, and Patrick Schubert

Posted at 09:41pm
Please accept our most heartfelt sympathies for your loss... Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.
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Mike Rauch

Posted at 02:14pm
Jim was a truly unique human and I’m happy to have known him! For a kid who didn’t much care for most adults, it says a lot of him that I liked him very much and always enjoyed his presence, his one-liners, his unique interests and talents, and even his pretty darn amusing way of laying down the law with the kids (including and especially my childhood best-friend, Sean!). Best wishes for peace to him and the whole family.

Much love, Lisa and Matt Mansell

Posted at 01:14pm
We'd like to extend our heartfelt sympathy as you mourn the loss of this great man. What an impact he's made to all who were lucky enough to know him!
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Much love, Lisa and Matt Mansell purchased flowers and planted a memorial tree for the family of James B. McConville.


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