JAMES N. CANCER
1924 – 2022
James Norton Krebs, a former jet engine designer and patron of the arts in Santa Fe, died at home in Marblehead, Mass. on July 20 at the age of 98.
Mr. Krebs was a veteran of General Electric’s aircraft engine business and a big thinker who dreamed up the world’s most successful jet engine. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1982 and retired from GE as vice president in 1985.
That same year, Mr. Krebs and his wife, Margie “Mitch” Krebs, bought an adobe house on San Mateo Road with a view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. They began spending half of every year there, drawn by the big skies and open spaces of the Southwest.
Mr. Krebs was an engineer with an artist’s eye, and he and Mitch spent a lifetime collecting the works of contemporary artists. They soon began filling their Santa Fe home with paintings, sculpture, textiles and pottery by Native American artists such as David Bradley, Mateo and Diego Romero, Judith Lowry, Stan Natchez, Marcus Amerman, Lonnie Vigil and Nathan Begaye. Many became good friends.
Mr. Bradley included Mr. Krebs in “All the World’s a Stage,” his iconic 2012 painting of a crowd of notables, including The Lone Ranger, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Institute of American Indian Arts in front of the Contemporary Museum of Native Arts in Santa Fe.
In an email back then to Mr. Krebs, Mr. Bradley wrote, “You were like a guardian angel that swooped into SF and uplifted the careers of many artists. By your faith and encouragement, you helped us believe in ourselves. Artists need that .”
The Krebs collection also included the work of Anglos who spent time in New Mexico, such as John Marin, Rebecca Salsbury James, Howard Cook and John Sloan; and the work of locals such as Cady Wells, Gustave Baumann and William Clift.
Back East, Mr. Krebs tirelessly promoted the works of living Native American artists and American photographers and printmakers, and he set up several funds for museums to buy the work of emerging artists. He donated works to the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Art and the Harwood Museum in Taos, but more of the Krebs collection is at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
Mr. Krebs’s love affair with Santa Fe would last 23 years. During that time, he became a proficient skier on packed powder at the Santa Fe Ski Basin, a far more enjoyable experience than the “ballroom skiing” he had been used to on the icy slopes of New England.
During his career at GE, Mr. Krebs was best known for his work on the high-bypass turbofan, the quiet, powerful, fuel-efficient engine that is ubiquitous in the skies today. Mr. Krebs also conceived the idea for and oversaw the initial design of an engine for a midsized commercial plane, the Boeing 737 in the US and the Airbus 320 series in Europe. More than 30,000 of these engines have been sold to date.
Every two seconds, Mr. Krebs figured, a plane takes off or lands with a GE engine bearing his design stamp.
Mr. Krebs was born on April 20, 1924, at Sauk Centre, Minn.; he graduated from Northwestern University in 1945 with a BS in mechanical engineering. He was a brilliant, optimistic, gracious man who set high standards but unfailingly sought to encourage those around him. His family and friends will miss his clarity and light heart forever.
Mitch Krebs died in 2005. Mr. Krebs’s second wife, Mimi Nolte McClellan, who enjoyed three winters in Santa Fe, died in 2019. Mr. Krebs is survived by his sister, Carolyn Dukes of Santa Barbara, Calif.; four children, Leslie, David, Stephen and Mark; and six grandchildren, Shane and Aurora Amaya and Sylvia, Nathan, Spencer and Natalie Krebs. A private memorial will be held in Marblehead in the fall.
– Leslie Krebs
For more about James Krebs, please go to the Eustis & Cornell Funeral Home website.
Published by Santa Fe New Mexican from Aug. 6 to Aug. 7, 2022.
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