James R. Renckens


Beloved husband, father, friend, and teacher, Jim Renckens passed away at his home in Richfield Springs on July 13, 2024, at age 84, surrounded by his loving family. He will be remembered for his deep love and devotion to his wife of 54 years, Polly, with whom he raised three children and side by side they gave their time and talents generously to the communities that they loved. His humor was infectious and he used it to put everyone he met at ease and he brought a smile to the face of anyone he spoke with. 

Jim was born in Dunkirk to Lillian and Paul Renckens, the youngest of a loving and boisterous family. He went on to college at SUNY Fredonia where he earned his teaching degree and met the love of his life, Polly. During a chance encounter at a bar he was invited to move to Hawaii and teach. He spent from 1965 - 1967 teaching at a small school on Oahu and formed deep friendships that would last the rest of his life. 

He returned to New York in 1967 and reunited with Polly; they married in September 1968. Shortly after, they moved together to Cooperstown and took over as Innkeepers at the Hickory Grove Inn. With the advice, love and help of the neighborhood the Grove became a gathering place for friends from near and far. 

Following the “the Grove Years”, Jim returned to teaching and for over a decade taught 5th and 6th grade reading, spelling and social studies with a beloved team of colleagues and friends at Milford Central School. He was known as a teacher and colleague who loved the students and whole community. He began each day with a riddle and it wasn’t uncommon to see former students stop by Room 207 to see what was on the board on any given day. 

Throughout his life friendship, service, and faith were always at the center. He was an active member of St. Mary’s Parish in Cooperstown and after moving to Richfield Springs in 2006 became active in parish life at St. Joseph’s. His dedication to his community and enthusiasm for helping others showed up in every aspect of who he was: He was an active member of Red Cross and Winter Carnival Committees, Relay for Life, and Cooperstown and Richfield Springs Food Pantry. He was part of the volunteer team that hung Christmas lights on the lamp posts, and could be – and was – called on to help in small and large ways. 

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Polly Renckens of Richfield Springs; his three children and grandchildren: Shannon Varner Renckens of Saugerties, wife Jenn Varner Renckens, children Keegan and Finnegan; Patrick Renckens of Saco, Maine, wife Shannon Bennett, children Lilian and Cecelia; and Beth Gibbons of Ypsilanti, MI, husband Mike Gibbons, children Jonah, Patrick, Andrew. His spirit and love live on through his extended family who are spread across the country and through his beloved friends who span generations and places. 

In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to donate to the Cooperstown or Richfield Springs food pantry: Checks to Richfield Springs Food Pantry can be made out to RS Food Bank and mailed to P.O. Box 140 Richfield Springs, NY 13439-4848. Donations to the Cooperstown Food Bank can be made online at: Cooperstown Food Pantry - Provide Support.

The family invites you to join for a celebration of Jim's life – donning vibrant colors and coming together to grieve and laugh and share. 
  • Calling Hours: Tuesday, July 23, 4-7 p.m., Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home, 82 Chestnut Street, Cooperstown, NY.
  • Mass: Mass of Christian Burial, Wednesday, July 24, 11:30 a.m., St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Roman Catholic Church, 31 Elm Street, Cooperstown, NY.

If you would like to send condolences to the family, send an email to Connell, Dow & Deysenroth. We will forward your comments to the family. If you would like to send flowers in memory of the deceased, contact Mohican Flowers at (607) 547-8822, or A Rose is a Rose at (607) 264-3100.