Bauman, James M. (1936-2014)

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James M. “Jim” Bauman: educational leader and church administrator, was born 19 July 1936 to Martin Bauman (30 March 1897-4 May 1960) and Rebecca (Martin) Bauman (21 January 1897-23 August 1962). An Old Order Mennonite family, they lived on a farm close to the village of Wallenstein, Ontario, Canada. Jim was the youngest of three boys and two girls. On 20 August 1966 he married Alma Halteman (27 June 1930-12 October 2013) from Pennsylvania. The wedding took place in the Deer Lake community of northern Ontario. They became parents of two daughters and a son. Jim died on 6 December 2014 at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. At his request, his body was donated for medical research. The funeral service was held at Wallenstein Bible Chapel.

Martin and Rebecca Bauman’s children attended a small elementary public school in the hamlet of Yatton. At the age of 12 Jim developed rheumatic fever, resulting in him being bedridden for seven months. Since he was not strong enough to do farm work, he was allowed to go to Elmira District High School, the only member of his family to go beyond eighth grade.

His formal education continued. Jim graduated from Wilfred Laurier University with a degree in education. His first experience in teaching, in 1962, was in the Deer Lake First Nation community in Northern Ontario. It is also where he met Alma Halteman who was serving as a community health nurse in the region.

After five years in Deer Lake, Jim and Alma returned to the Wallenstein area. One of their residences was in the top floor of the offices of Martin Tile Yard in the village. Later they built a home for the family in nearby Hawkesville. Jim held teaching positions at schools in Parker, Hawkesville, and Elmira.

During his time in the North, Jim learned to play the guitar. In the ensuing years he taught his siblings to play the violin, mouth organ, and guitar. They had their own “Bauman ensemble.”

In the early 1960s the Ontario Department of Education moved to close small rural schools and to bus farm children to much larger, centralized schools. The proposed changes were greeted with alarm and resistance by the Old Order Mennonite community. They saw little in the new educational system that would preserve their way of life. Rather, they felt it would degrade it.

With support from the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, the Old Order community petitioned the government to release them from the educational mandate and permit them to set up their own parochial schools. After considerable discussion and debate, they were given permission to start their own private education system. Their first school, opened under the Ontario Private Schools Act, welcomed students in 1967. But they urgently needed someone with teaching experience and the respect of the community to head up the program.

Jim Bauman and the family in which he’d grown up were well known and highly regarded by the Old Order community. As a child Jim regularly attended worship services at an Old Order meetinghouse. Some Old Order people had worked along side his father. Jim was fluent in Pennsylvania German, the everyday dialect of the Old Order community. They felt that he understood them and their rationale for breaking away from the government funded elementary school system.

The job of teacher and supervisor of their schools was offered to Jim. After considerable thought and consultation, and with the support of his family, he consented. It was a daunting and challenging responsibility. There was no precedent to follow. He also needed to resign from the Waterloo County School Board, leaving a secure teaching position and a predictable future in his profession. Jim chose to be among the pioneers in building an education system where none had previously existed. He was also counted on to be its leader.

Teachers in the newly formed Old Order parochial system had graduated from eighth grade and had no training in pedagogy. To address the situation, Jim started a three week innovative summer school program whereby his teachers would become better equipped to meet the needs of their students. He made important and long lasting connections with the children, their parents, teachers and the Old Order church leaders. There needed to be, and was, a trusting relationship between Jim and those with whom he worked.

Under Jim’s guidance, the number of Old Order one and two room schools grew to 40. He was superintendent of the system through the first 30 years of its existence. It was widely held that he was the key to its successful beginning.

After his retirement from education, Jim took on administration responsibilities at Wallenstein Bible Chapel, the congregation his family had joined after leaving the Old Order community.

A significant number of individuals from the Old Order Mennonite community attended Jim’s funeral, an indication to his family of their respect and appreciation.

With wisdom, patience, mutual trust, and a gift for working well with others, Jim helped lay the foundation for a thriving parochial school system. He is remembered with gratitude by the Old Order community; “the silent in the land”, who wisely chose to put their trust in him.


“Bauman, James “Jim.” Waterloo Region Record (8 December 2014).

“Bauman, Alma.” Waterloo Region Record (15 October 2013).

Draper, Barb. The Mennonites of St. Jacobs and Elmira: understanding the variety. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2010.

Frede, Ada Bauman, Interview by Del E. Gingrich, Wallenstein, Ontario (March 23, 2015).

Author(s) Del Gingrich
Date Published May 2015

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Gingrich, Del. "Bauman, James M. (1936-2014)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2015. Web. 26 Feb 2024.,_James_M._(1936-2014)&oldid=131968.

APA style

Gingrich, Del. (May 2015). Bauman, James M. (1936-2014). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 February 2024, from,_James_M._(1936-2014)&oldid=131968.

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