John Henry and Jessie Edith Cramer Paap
1871 - 1919 1872-1961
John Paap and his wife, Jessie, were pioneer teachers at three Seventh-day Adventist colleges. He served as an academy principal until his untimely death at age 48 from the Spanish influenza. Jessie taught art and music, her final position being at Pacific Union College, where she taught art until her retirement after teaching for over four decades.
John was born in Kaikoura, New Zealand, on January 13, 1871, the oldest son of ten children of John and Carolina Papp. He spent his early life on a farm and in touring Australia, where he was known for his expertise as a sheep shearer. He and his family were converted to the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1892. Shortly after his baptism in autumn of that year, he and two of his brothers attended an annual church conference at which they learned about, and responded to, the need for teachers and workers in the church.
The following year he left for California to attend Healdsburg College, later relocated and renamed Pacific Union College, traveling on a missionary schooner named the Pitcairn, which was returning to the U.S. from its second voyage in the Pacific. Paap pursued the scientific program and, following completion of his degree in 1895, was hired to teach at the college.
He married Jessie Edith Creamer, a musically talented student and teacher at the college, on August 29, 1895. She had been born in St. Helena, California, on August 29, 1872, the daughter of James and Hannah Willsie Creamer, two of the first converts to the Seventh-day Adventist church in California. Her parents helped establish the St. Helena Sanitarium, and her father was on its first board of directors. Ellen White was a frequent guest in their home.
Jessie started her teaching career in 1891 while still a music student at Healdsburg College. Following her marriage to John and his graduation two years later, he taught at the college until 1899, when they accepted positions at Avondale School for Christian Workers, now Avondale College, in Australia.
For the next eleven years, both John and Jessie were important players in stabilizing this relatively new school. She established a respected program in keyboard and voice instruction and taught art classes. She also launched the beginning of a choral tradition at the school by starting and directing a Choral Society that presented a concert at the end of each year. He taught science classes, managed the farm, served as a preceptor (dean) of men, appears to have started the first brass band at the college, and served briefly as interim principal in 1909.
John was described as "big and strong," in splendid physical condition, with "magnificent energies," leaving "fingerprints of faithfulness and efficiency on farm and faculty." He was a hero to the boys and made "Avondale farm to blossom as the rose and revealed what its soil could produce." Jessie would later be remembered as a small woman with "large blue eyes that radiated so much good cheer to her pupils in art and music" and "brought harmony into the school in more ways than one."
In 1910 they were invited back to California to help in the development of Pacific Union College, successor to HC, now struggling in its second year at the new location in Angwin, California. He taught science classes and oversaw work in the school orchard and on the farm. It is probable that she taught music and assisted in church service music during this time since a formal music program had not yet been established. She started the art program in 1911.
In 1914 they relocated to Lodi Academy, where she taught art and music. John would serve as principal until his death in the middle of the 1918-1919 school year, on January 18, 1919, from the Spanish influenza, a pandemic that had swept the world in the previous year. He was highly respected and loved by the teachers, students, and constituents of the school, and his death was regarded as a terrible loss to both the school and community.
His story and the circumstances of his death were placed on the front page of the next issue of the Pacific Union Recorder, the union newsletter. The article spoke of his commitment in a lengthy tribute, which included the following comments:
Professor Papp was a public-spirited man and one of the most patriotic citizens of Lodi. He entered heartily into the Liberty Bond, Red Cross, YMCA, and war work drives. Among his dying statements were the following words: "We must remember our soldier boys, both in the camps and across the seas."
Those who knew professor Paap personally recognized in him the higher qualities that make life worthwhile. He was a steadfast Christian, kind and courteous in his family and in the church; always deeply interested in the welfare and progress of his students.
Jessie returned to PUC, where she taught art until her retirement in 1933, having taught music and art for more than 45 years. She was residing in Loma Linda, California, at the time of her death on August 29, 1961, her 89th birthday. She was survived by two daughters, Anita Hilda Rand and Marion Creamer Mortenson.
Sources: "A Well Known Teacher Has Fallen," Life Sketch, Pacific Union Recorder, February 6, 1919, 1, 2; "John Henry Paap," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 6, 1919, 25, (extracted from the PUR article); Jessie Edith Creamer Paap obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, November 6, 1961, 5; Hannah Willsie Creamer obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, April 25, 1945, 14; Milton Hook, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, (Cooranbong, NSW, Australia, Avondale Academic Press, 1998), 45, 48, 66, 69, 86, 93; J. W. Kent, "Reminiscences of an Old Path," Australasian Record, October 25, 1937, 8, 7; A. G. Stewart, "From the Heart of the United States," Australasian Record, August 29, 1949, 2; J.W. Kent, quotation; Faculty Directory in 1957 Pacific Union College yearbook, Diogenes Lantern (a special edition celebrating the first fifty years of the school) 287 (she is listed as the art teacher, beginning in 1911, the year after their going to PUC); Jessie Edith Creamer Paap obituary; California, Death Index, 1940-1997, Ancestry.com; Marion C. Mortensen, California, Death Index, 1940-1997, and Anita Hilda Paap-Facts, Butterbach, Thomas, H. Family Tree, both at Ancestry.com.