James McCartney's pursuit of knowledge took many forms

Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 8:40 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – Even though James Lee McCartney lived in Columbia, he kept a close relationship with his granddaughter Isabella in Chesterfield by playing chess with her on his iPhone.

"He loves his family," McCartney's daughter, Carrie Wrisberg, said. "He has a really strong support for my brother and I growing up and for his grandchildren."


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James Lee McCartney of Columbia died Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. He was 76.

He was born Aug. 15, 1936, in Omaha, Neb., to Thelma (Birdsall) and Edward Lowery McCartney.

He received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1965 and soon began teaching sociology at MU.

Dr. McCartney held a strong interest in international studies, specifically Asian culture. He loved to travel and was instrumental in developing a sister relationship between MU and a college in South Korea.

He had a strong love for other cultures, and he embraced the unique people he met from all different backgrounds, Wrisberg said.

Later in his life, he became the director of MU’s International Center and was  involved in study abroad scholarship programs. Dr. McCartney's son, Brian McCartney, said his father was dedicated to equality and social justice, which was indicative of the cultural ties he worked to create.

Wrisberg and Brian McCartney said their father had a lifelong curiosity and love for learning. Even during his last months, Dr. McCartney continued to contribute to scientific journals.

Dr. McCartney instilled within his children the values for strong academics, and both went on to attend MU’s School of Law.

Wrisberg said her father never stopped thirsting for knowledge.

“My father would read the heavy stuff, but he still liked the light stuff like little mystery novels, going to the science museum and listening to jazz music with my brother,” she said.

Wrisberg described her father as a well-rounded man who noticeably enjoyed the life around him.

She said Dr. McCartney took pleasure in the things in life that most people took for granted, and she remembered him for his frequent description, “It’s delightful.”

Dr. McCartney is survived by his wife, Karen Kaupanger; his daughter, Carrie Wrisberg and her husband, Curt, of Chesterfield; his son, Brian McCartney and his wife, Chrissy, of Columbia; his stepson Keefe Kaupanger-Swacker and his wife, Natasha, of Los Angeles; and grandchildren Isabella Jean, Brock Arthur and Grant James Wrisberg, Mary Wren and Thomas Field McCartney, and Klara Marie Kaupanger-Swacker.

Visitation will be at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 7 at First Presbyterian Church, 16 Hitt St. Service will follow at 10:30 a.m. at the same location.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri or the Mizzou Scholarship Fund.

Condolences can be posted at

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