James Cebula, a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati for more than 40 years, died Oct. 9. He was 67.
Cebula was born July 27, 1942 in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town of Dupont. He was the fifth of six children of Anthony Cebula, a coal miner, and Helen Cebula, who worked in garment factories. Their lives as working people shaped his interest in the labor movement and in American history. Cebula was the first in his family to complete a college degree, from East Stroudsburg University. He went on to earn a doctorate in history from the University of Cincinnati and became one of the first instructors at the Raymond Waters College campus in 1968.
Courses in Ohio history, early American history, and labor history were his favorite to teach. He was most proud of co-editing a book of workers' poetry called "Rhyme and Reason: Molders Poetry from Sylvis to the Great Depression," in 1984. In addition he co-directed of a video history project of Cincinnati completed for the city's bicentennial celebrations in 1987.
Cincinnati pulled him in" said his daughter, Judith Cebula of Indianapolis. He never tired of learning about the history of the river city and the history of its neighborhoods, she said.
The history professor harbored a lifelong interest in the working class shaped by his humble beginnings. His father Anthony was a coal miner in northeastern Pennsylvania; his mother worked in the garment factories in his hometown of Dupont.
Dr. Cebula developed a video project in 1989 that told the story of the history of work and workers in Cincinnati, "They Build the City: The Working People of Cincinnati." He was co-author and director of the project.
He never tired of exposing his students to what he loved as well, his daughter said.
The Cincinnati neighborhood of Kennedy Heights also shaped Cebula's life. He is a past-president of the Kennedy Heights community council and was serving on the scholarship committee and as historical consultant for the Kennedy Heights Community Art Academy at the time of his death.
"He was a strong and impulsive leader," said Duane Holm, who worked with Dr. Cebula on community issues in the neighborhood. "He will be missed."
In 1971 Cebula moved to Kennedy Heights after reading about residents there who were committed to building a racially integrated community. He and his wife Maria raised two daughters there. They divorced in 1980.
He is a past-president of the Kennedy Heights community council and was serving on the scholarship committee and as historical consultant for the Kennedy Heights Community Art Academy at the time of his death.
Cebula was a member of the Ohio Academy of History, Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association. He was a member of the American Association of University Professors, serving locally, in Ohio, and nationally in supporting collective bargaining and academic freedom.
Cebula is survived by his daughters, Anne (Anderson), Fortrose, Scotland; Judith Cebula, Indianapolis, IN. Son-in-laws James Anderson, Fortrose, and Michael Redmond, Indianapolis; grandchildren Laing Anderson and Elizabeth Redmond. Other survivors include his partner, Tatiana Romanova, Loveland, OH; brother Anthony Cebula, Orlando, FL., and sisters Betty Mekuta, Fitchburg, WI; Joan Thoronson, Moundsville, MN., Phyllis DePrimo, Pittston, PA.; and Patricia Reller, Robersdale, MN.