The Carutherses, auto crash victims
Memorial services for James Wade Caruthers, an educator and historian, and his wife, Gwynette Thompson Caruthers, a teacher and child psychologist, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday in the Social Room of Salisbury State University.
Dr. Caruthers and Mrs. Caruthers, who lived in Annapolis, died Sunday in an automobile crash on U.S. 50 at Mardela Springs. Both were 74.
Survivors include a son, David Wade Caruthers of Monkton; two daughters, Ellen Caruthers Liebenberg of Livermore, Calif., and Mary Jane Caruthers Parmentier of Lakeland, Colo.; and two grandchildren. Dr. Caruthers also is survived by a sister, Imogene Caruthers Horton of Mardela Springs, and Mrs. Caruthers by a brother, Dr. Ollie H. Thompson of Salisbury.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Caruthers Memorial Fund, Salisbury State University Foundation, Room 230, Holloway Hall, Salisbury 21801; or to Coastal Hospice, P.O. Box 1733, Salisbury 21802.
James Caruthers was the son of the late Dr. T.J. Caruthers, one of the founding faculty of what is now Salisbury State University. Dr. James Caruthers was former chairman of the university's Alumni Board and received its 1991 alumni appreciation award.
Dr. Caruthers was born in 1917 in Perryville, Mo. In 1925, his father was invited to join the original faculty of the new teacher training college in Salisbury. It took the family a week, camping out along the way, to make the trip by car from Missouri to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
He grew up in the house now run by the university as a residence for honors students. Through seventh grade he attended the Campus School, a laboratory school run by the college. In 1934, he graduated from Wicomico High School.
In 1938 Dr. Caruthers received his degree in elementary education from Salisbury State University. He also played varsity basketball there, starting at center.
During summers, he and several other students were employed as "beetle boys," a program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap Japanese beetles on farms across the Eastern Shore. It was good pay for those Depression years, and his route often seemed to take him through Hurlock, where his fellow student and wife-to-be lived with her parents. In 1940, they were married.
After Pearl Harbor, Dr. Caruthers was commissioned an ensign in the Navy. He served on minesweepers operating out of Curacao in the Caribbean, advancing to commanding officer of two different vessels by the end of World War II.
He used his GI Bill entitlements to earn a doctorate in history from Columbia University. He had scarcely begun his teaching career in higher education, at Keene State University in Keene, N.H., when he was stricken in the nationwide polio epidemic of 1951. After a time, he recuperated to the point that he could teach from a wheelchair. At times, more than 500 students a week would come through the Carutherses' dining room for lectures.
Recovering, he went on to become the university's first director of graduate studies, establishing departments of history and social science. After 10 years in Keene, Dr. Caruthers moved to New Haven, where he began a 24-year association with Southern Connecticut State University. There, he was director of graduate studies and became the first chairman of the school's new history department. He retired in 1981 as professor emeritus of history. While in Connecticut, he and his wife were members of the Unitarian Church.
He wrote numerous historical articles for scholarly journals and published two books -- one in maritime history and the other a biography of a 19th-century intellectual, O.B. Frothingham.
After retiring and moving to Annapolis, Dr. Caruthers was able to more fully indulge his passion for sailing. As a young boy in Salisbury, he and several other youths had formed a ragtag boating association called the "Tony Tank Club" around a small skiff on the Wicomico River.
Gwynette Caruthers was born in 1917 in Hurlock, a small town in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Her parents were storekeepers. After graduating in 1934 from Hurlock High School, she attended Salisbury State University, then known as Salisbury State Teachers College.
She graduated in 1938 with a degree in education. She later earned a master's degree in psychological testing from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and did advanced graduate work there.
In 1940, she married Dr. Caruthers, a fellow graduate of Salisbury State, and moved to Cambridge. One of her earliest jobs in a 40-year education career that would include national recognition for work with learning-disabled children was an appointment as the truant officer for Dorchester County schools. She soon became well-known to tardy elements of the school population, even in remote villages such as Elliott Island.