Cover photo for James "Jim" Bruce Adelson's Obituary
James "Jim" Bruce Adelson Profile Photo
1953 Jim 2023

James "Jim" Bruce Adelson

May 25, 1953 — June 20, 2023

Harvard, Massachusetts

              Harvard resident, avid cyclist and hiker, oriental rug collector

James “Jim” Adelson, 70, of Harvard, died unexpectedly at his home on June 20th, 2023. His loved ones will dearly miss such a thoughtful individual, a great listener, and a man devoted to his family. His kindness, compassion, and caring was felt by everyone he met.

Born on May 25th, 1953, in Boston, he was the son of William Adelson and Janet (Ginsburg) Hays. The family spent some of Jim’s earliest years in San Antonio, Texas, and abroad in Germany due to his father’s position as an army doctor. In 1960, his family settled in Sudbury where he grew up in the same community as his first cousins, and graduated from LincolnSudbury Regional High School in 1971. His next step took him to Harvard College, earning a degree in English literature (1975). He later received a master’s degree in 1979 in Marketing and Finance from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Jim’s long career in business spanned a variety of emerging and established technology companies including Imlac, Atex, Eloquent, Xyquest, Lotus, IBM, THINQ, Questionmark, and Skillsoft. In 2009, he joined his cousin Michael Getz at Illumina Interactive, managing business strategy until the day of his passing.

In the fall of 1971 during their first days in college, Jim met his partner in life, Debbie Sheetz. In 1979, the two settled in Harvard, sharing their first home together on Mettacomet Path. In 1984, together they designed and built a custom home on Old Shirley Road to reflect their architectural tastes, and lived there ever since. Following the decision to have children, they married in 1986. Born in 1987 was son, Nathaniel, followed by daughter, Erica, in 1990, and son, Jeffrey, in 1995. Upon becoming a homeowner, Jim developed a deep appreciation of oriental rugs and became a serious collector over the span of multiple decades. He greatly enjoyed having many of those pieces on display, some that date back centuries. He later became a member of the New England Rug Society, and most recently, serving as president.

As a teenager, Jim was an enthusiastic hiker, summiting all sixty-three 4,000-foot peaks in New England. He later completed the 46 Adirondack 4,000-footers, eventually joining the Appalachian Mountain Club’s prestigious Northeast 111 Club. He also completed the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Connecticut. Later in life, that love for the outdoors led him to join the Land Stewardship Subcommittee in Harvard. He was diligent in his care for trails located on conservation land across town and enjoyed sharing them with others.

One of Jim’s great passions was cycling all over the state of Massachusetts. Nothing was more representative of that, and his dedication to charity, than his involvement with the PanMass Challenge (PMC). Introduced to the event by cousin Dan Ginsburg, 2006 was his first year participating, and with training well underway, 2023 would have marked his 18th consecutive ride. He was particularly inspired by the PMC mission, funding cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and single-handedly raised almost $250,000 for that cause over his lifetime. His last bike ride was on Father’s Day to visit the playground in Sudbury dedicated to his father, “Dr. Bill,” who died of cancer.

Jim is survived by his wife, Deborah Sheetz; his son, Nathaniel, of Harvard; his daughter, Erica, of Malden; and his son, Jeffrey, of Harvard. He leaves behind four siblings, sister, Lisa Eisenberg, and her husband, Paul, of Harvard; brother, Joshua Adelson, and his wife, Kimberly Collins, of Plymouth; sister, Nancy Greim, and her husband, Robert, of Newton; brother, Andrew Adelson, and his wife, Judith Saxe, of Wellesley, along with ten nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind his mother and sister-in-law, Marjorie and Mary Beth Sheetz, of Framingham.

The family will hold a private celebration of Jim’s life. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to his Pan-Mass Challenge campaign by using the link:

Arrangements under the care of Badger Funeral Home, 45 School Street, Groton, MA 01450 (978)-486-3709,


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