Jim Widmer (1926–2019)


Jim was born in Theresa, WI, the son of Swiss immigrants John Otto & Marie Widmer. He grew up in a residence above Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, the family’s cheese business in Theresa.

Jim was a 1944 graduate of Mayville High School. Following high school, he served his country in World War II with the 77th Infantry Division in Okinawa. He married Shirley Borgman on November 9, 1957. They were married for 56 years until Shirley passed away in 2014.

Photography was Jim’s lifelong passion. Together with his wife Shirley he documented the lives of people and places in Theresa and area communities.

Jim and Shirley Widmer March 7, 2009

Widmer used a Twin Lens Automatic Rolleiflex, considered by professional photographers to be one of the finest cameras ever made. He used Kodak Super XX film at 100 speed, developed in a fine-grain developer, Kodak Microdol-X. At times he also used 35mm cameras and a variety of lenses ranging from 20mm to 300mm. Widmer developed the Kodak Tri-X, black-and-white film in Kodak D-76 and printed the 11-by-14 enlargements on Agfa Brovira papers. The majority of Jim’s photos used available light. Jim and Shirley Widmer performed all of the photographic processing themselves and assembled hundreds of printed images in bound volumes. The Widmers donated the photographs to the Theresa Library, Lomira Quad Graphics Library, and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Jim Widmer exhibit (found in the Edgar G. Mueller Photo Gallery) showcases some of Jim’s darkroom equipment and explains the process he and Shirley used to create their bound photograph books and extra large photographic prints. Many of the large format prints found in the Mayville Limestone School Museum were created in Jim’s Theresa home darkroom.

You can view Jim’s photos collections “Theresa Township Over Time”, “Fish Fry Fridays”, and “Barns in Theresa Township” at the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

Jim Widmer lectures in front of his photography exhibit in the Mayville Limestone School Museum. March, 2016
Jim Widmer March 2016