Music 03

James E. Onion

October 25, 1939 ~ August 27, 2020 (age 80)


James E. Onion, 80 of Ashtabula, Ohio passed away August 27, 2020 at home. He was born October 25, 1939 to Bird J. and Daisy (Castle) Onion in Bushnell, Ohio in a snowstorm and the doctor came by horse and sleigh.

Jim was a well-known singer, musician and educator. He began his singing career as a child and it continued throughout the rest of his life. A stroke 10 years ago didn’t stop him from singing and blessing people with his presence, always giving praise to the glory of God.

Jim graduated from Jefferson High School in 1957; he received his undergraduate degree with a bachelor’s in voice and music education from Eastern Nazarene College in Boston in 1967. He did graduate study  at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. He also did post graduate training with Robert Shaw, Roger Wagner, Robert DeCormier, Alice Parker and Robert Hale.

His teaching career began at Pymatuning Valley Schools from 1968- 1970; from Buckeye Local Schools from 1970 – 1995. With 25 years at Braden Junior High; five years in Elementary music and 10 years at Edgewood Senior High School. His most notable achievement at Edgewood was the formation of the Edgewood Warrior Soundsations. He was elected to Who’s Who among American Teachers in 1992. He was also a member of American Choral Directors Association, Ohio Music Educators Association, and Music Educators National Conference. Jim was also a Church Choir Director in Massachusetts, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, including Ashtabula’s Faith Lutheran and First United Methodist and founding director of The Men of Praise Men’s Chorus.

Jim’s singing career included being a soloist throughout years of schooling, elementary through college, including appearances with choirs and orchestras in several New England and Atlantic States. He was chorister/soloist with Robert Shaw in Cleveland, New York, Princeton, Washington, San Juan and central France. He was soloist in several Oratorios and Cantatas; including “Messiah” Elijah”, “St Paul”. And “The creation”.  Jim also had lead roles in Operas; including “La Boheme”, and “The Marriage of Figaro”. He also performer as an actor/singer at the Ashtabula Arts Center and Straw Hat Theater; including “Carnival”, “Bye-Bye Birdie”, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “1776”. He was also soloist with the Ashtabula Symphonic Band, Francis Montanaro, Dir for over twenty years and several years with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. He also performed with the third appearance with the Ashtabula Chamber Orchestra, including: Narrator in “Peter and the Wolf” soloist in 1994 Christmas concert.

He married Marilyn Swanson on May 25, 1974 at First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula. Together they enjoyed loving and laughing their way through a most wonderful life. They shared the joys of gardening, camping and traveling throughout the U.S. but especially enjoyed our beautiful Lake Erie and its awesome sunsets.

He was a member of the Second Congregational Church and was the Assistant to Pastor Glen Warner for five years.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years ; his children, Robin (Joe) Schenk of Jefferson, Sean (Cindy) Onion of Escondido, CA., and Jaymz (Steffanie) Onion of Warrenton, Ga; grandchildren; Joseph, Jr. (Amber) Schenk, Jessica (Andy) Ackley, Christie (Onion) Malfavon, Jean-Michelle Robert Onion, Jaym-Evangilisto Christian Onion, Djoe Phsh William Wallace Onion, his great-grandchildren; Rachel, Hannah and Eden Schenk’ Hunter, Kallay and Warren Ackley; sister, Mary Hughs of David, Ca.; his brother; Francis Onion of Mammoth Springs, Arkansas; niece, Ruby (Brad) Ivy of Texas; his half-brothers and sisters, Bill, Jay, Velma, Evelyn and Edith and many cousins, nephews and nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents; his step-mother, Shirley Onion, his foster parents Irving and Jennie Weaver of Jefferson, Ohio; and half-sister Margaret (Onion) Newhard.

Memorial Contributions in his memory can be made to Hospice of the Western Reserve, 1166 Lake Ave. Ashtabula, Ohio 44004 or to The Second Congregational Church of Ashtabula.

Special heart-felt thanks go out to Ladena and Mindee of Hospice for their love and care for Jim and especially for the compassion and support of his wife, Marilyn during this most difficult time.

At Jim’s request there will no services but fond remembrances of the lives he touched and to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Ashtabula Home of Fleming & Billman Funeral Directors and Crematory 526 W. Prospect Rd. Ashtabula is honored to serve the James Onion family. Guest book, light a candle and obituary at



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No services to be held


Hospice of the Western Reserve
1166 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, OH 44004

The Second Congregational Church
Lake Ave., Ashtabula OH 44004

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