John A. Williamson obituary photo
 
In Memory of

John A. Williamson

December 12, 1932 - March 30, 2015

Obituary


John Alexander Williamson, 82, of Boulder passed away March 30th 2015 at ManorCare Health Services-Boulder due to complications from recent surgery.
Mr. Williamson was born December 12, 1932 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Perry Williamson and Mary Alexander Williamson. He grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his one sister Jane, and remained in town to attend Macalester College. At college, John discovered a love for academics and through SPAN, a study abroad program, a love for travel. It was through SPAN that he met Valerie Beard of Eveleth, Minnesota, who it turned out also loved...

John Alexander Williamson, 82, of Boulder passed away March 30th 2015 at ManorCare Health Services-Boulder due to complications from recent surgery.
Mr. Williamson was born December 12, 1932 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Perry Williamson and Mary Alexander Williamson. He grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his one sister Jane, and remained in town to attend Macalester College. At college, John discovered a love for academics and through SPAN, a study abroad program, a love for travel. It was through SPAN that he met Valerie Beard of Eveleth, Minnesota, who it turned out also loved academics, travel and John! They were married June 11, 1955. In the middle of three years teaching high school in Lamberton, MN, the couple spent the 1956-57 academic year teaching in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Their first child, Anne was born during their year in Africa. Once back in Minnesota, there would be three more children, Bruce, Craig, and Dawn, as well as graduate school and a Ph. D. in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota. The family then moved to Ithaca, New York, where John was an instructor at Cornell. Accepting a faculty position at CU, John moved with his family to Boulder in September of 1967 and made it his home for the rest of his life, though he continued to spend the occasional sabbatical year abroad in England, Italy and France. He retired from CU as a Professor of Applied Mathematics in 2005. Most of his academic work focused on Probability and Statistics, and his teaching was consistently rated very highly by students. In 1999, he received a Distinguished Citizen Award from Macalester College, and in 1996, he received the Best Paper Award from the International Genetic Epidemiology Society.
From very early childhood, John experienced a rare progressive deterioration of his eyesight due to Retinitis Punctata Albescens that left him blind by the time he was a young man. While this obviously did not slow him down much, it probably contributed to his lifelong love of listening to the radio when so many others of his generation moved on to television. He loved to listen to baseball games, and was the kind of fan who could cite lineups, results, and even important individual plays going back decades with astonishing accuracy (with no help from the internet!). He also kept up on news and events of all kinds, being very fond of public radio as a source. National Public Radio's dedication to keeping alive traditional programming delighted him, and he was a particular fan of fellow Minnesotan Garrison Keillor. The Prairie Home Companion and especially the Writer's Almanac were just about the only things for which he demand that the conversation stop for attentive listening. Otherwise conversation was the rule at John's kitchen table, along with tea, toast, jam and often cookies or chocolate.
One of his gifts was his sincere interest in whatever mattered most to the person he was speaking with. In spite of his immense knowledge about many things, he always wanted to learn more about what others were passionate about. In addition to baseball and travel, his interests included anything to do with trains, history, classical music, opera, Shakespeare, geography, games (especially cribbage and Chronology), and many other things too numerous to list here. Much of his focus after retirement was spent in caring for his wife as her health deteriorated, difficult though that was. In more recent years, he really enjoyed his book club with other retired faculty, going out for coffee and long lunches with former colleagues and friends, conversations with his children, and hearing about his grandchildren's adventures.
Despite a growing number of health problems, including Parkinson's Disease, John remained relentlessly positive, optimistic, and good natured, and his mind remained sharp. He was determined to overcome his latest medical challenge and achieve his goal of passing away peacefully at home after many more years of visits from friends and family, and he fought hard to the last to stay with us.
John is survived by children: Anne Williamson Callanan and husband Terry of Fairport, NY; Craig Williamson and wife Marlene of Denver; and Dawn Williamson and husband Jonathan Wheeling of Dundee, OR. John was preceded in death by his beloved wife Valerie who passed away in 2012, and their son Bruce who died in an automobile accident as a teenager. He is also survived by his sister, Jane Forbes and husband Michael, and by grandchildren Ryan and Mark Callanan, and Phillip, Duncan, and Charlotte Williamson, as well as nieces, nephews, cousins, and many more family and friends.
Memorial donations can be made to the Friends of the Colorado Talking Book Library (www.myctbl.org, 180 Sheridan Blvd, Denver, 80226). The family and the Applied Math Department hope to set up a scholarship in John's name, but are still working out the details. Please contact the Applied Math Department or the family for more information about donating to support this endeavor.
A memorial service is planned for 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 16, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder at 5001 Pennsylvania.