In Memoriam: Professor John Peterson
Dr. John Peterson, our friend and colleague, lost his life March 5, 2017 as the result of a climbing accident. The loss of Dr. Peterson, or more often simply JP, will be felt across this campus and across the country as John’s gregarious and inclusive nature led him to touch the lives of so many. He is survived by his wife Marti Peterson, and his two sons, Eric and Jay.
We encourage everyone who has known Dr. Peterson to contribute to this memorial page. Please send tributes to firstname.lastname@example.org for their inclusion here. Pictures of John are welcome as while he was a prolific photographer, the camera was often pointed elsewhere. Text tributes will brought online first, followed by images in the following week. There is no deadline on submissions.
Alternatively, John was very active with the Access Fund, so a donation in his name at the Access Fund would also be greatly appreciated.
I spent the night in Salt Lake on my way to John's Memorial. The next morning I watched the sunrise over Big and Little Cottonwood canyon. The view was absolutely stunning - clouds rolling over the alpenglow lit mountains. I cried. The only time I ever climbed in those canyons was with John. And I can say that about a lot of places - Alabama Hills, The Buttermilks, Lover's Leap, Yosemite, The Needles, Maple Canyon, Cochise Stronghold - the list goes on. These trips are comprised of some of the most cherished and terrifying moments of my life. Saying they define a substantial part of who I am is an understatement. And that is what makes John's passing so bittersweet; he profoundly affected so many peoples' lives through his various endeavors that it's unfathomable. He shared his friendship and adventures with all, whether they sought it or he thrust it upon them (likely the latter). And there was never a dull moment because John was perhaps the smartest, goofiest, and most selfless person to have walked this earth. He will be missed dearly.
John was larger than life. We believed he could do anything, and we were right. We also believed he was invincible. We could go with him anywhere, and somehow we would be invincible, too. If John said we would climb a mountain on the moon's surface next week, I'd start packing my bag. He treated us to countless adventures and would push us to achieve things we never thought possible. It was the greatest honor to be John's research partner and to teach and present alongside him. We would stay up late writing papers and grants together, dreaming of new ways to create music with computer code. We would drive 8+ hours just to hear a great concert or live off hamburgers for a weekend while guest lecturing about algorithmic music. He loved my family, and especially my little son. Imagine a research professor from Yale University, inventor of the Haskell programming language, a true genius in all respects, sitting in my apartment to babysit my little boy because I had a late night rehearsal. That was John. Imagine a man who would drive you through endless deserts to see ancient canyon paintings or take you up impossible mountains to rappel off the top. That was John also. John could inspire an ant to be a lion, and the ant would transform. We all transformed. We'll never forget you, John.
For the short time that I knew JP he was welcoming, quirky, and accepting. A generous heart that has passed too soon. I only wish more time could be granted in order for him to pass along more laughter and lessons.
Lover of Music, Lover of Life.
JP was as humble as he was genius. Like a farmer he tended, provided life giving nutrients, and cared for people of all ages to help them grow not only in mind but in spirit as well. By bringing a smile to all our faces, giving us the advice we need not the advice we want to hear, and investing himself into his friends and pupils lives he has personally impacted and actively shaped more people positively than any other man I’ve met. This University, the Gunnison Community, the World lost a truly unique and unequivocally eccentric genius in the fields of computer science, outdoor recreation, and life. We will always love and miss you JP.
John Peterson – a generous man. He consistently let people go to his house and grab outdoor gear for their use. I believe there was a summer when my son had JP’s raft more than he did. Thank you for the raft trips! It was a pleasure working with and knowing you. I will miss your good-natured harassment. RIP John.
JP. You mean the world to me. I wouldn't be where I'm at if it weren't for you having faith in your students - and you hardly asked for much in return. You don't know how many people you impacted, but it is more than you'd ever imagine. I'll never forget you; I'll always keep the lessons you taught me close to my heart. Thank you for being the one and only JP that has and will ever exist.
JP was our adopted Quigleyean. We joked that he was the only non-Art/Music faculty to have free rein and keys to our kingdom. I will always be deeply grateful to JP for his support of the Music department when they suffered another tragic loss - of John Wacker. JP lived his life out loud, and like every moment mattered. His presence in the halls of Quigley was always a happy, jovial one, and he could brighten even the most difficult days. Good bye, JP. Thank you for being you.
When you lose a person with whom you've shared a rope, whether a few climbs or a few hundred, a piece of you goes missing.
Climbing is one of the activities that truly creates a bond between participants, one that transcends age
We met on rec.climbing (usenet) before the days of social media and first climbed together in Cochise Stronghold. His oldest son Eric was 6 at the time. A friend and I hiked up the approach to meet him and his son after they bivyed overnight at the base.
I recall Marti asking me to please take a jacket up for Eric as it was cold that morning. We had a great time on What's My Line (5.6) in spite of me doing a 'super pendulum' and jacking up my ankle. They hiked back to the east side and did the long drive around to come pick me up, so I could limp my way out to the West Stronghold (easier hike)
Climbed together in Sedona and more recently in Scottsdale... not often enough with work, family priorities. He always amazed me with his boundless enthusiasm and ability to squeeze in adventures anywhere he went. He always extended an open invite to come visit.
Some shots of the last time I had the opportunity to climb with him, Eric and Katherine. We did the regular route to the 5.8 finish on Pinnacle Peak in N. Scottsdale
Rest in peace.. who am I kidding.. John Peterson would never rest! May your soul be ever leading onward and upward!
With much love and healing thoughts to his family.
I've known Marti and John for nearly 40 years. I met Marti while working in the data processing center at DU in the summer of 1978 (or was it '77?). I remember her telling me about a very interesting, unique, outdoorsy guy who had taken a fancy to her. Turns out this guy knew my dad well (Lou of Lou's Music Box). Like myself, John loved music while studying Computer Science in college. Marti and I traveled to Europe together in the fall of 1980, and by that time, she and John were quite serious about one another. My family attended John and Marti's wedding in 1981, which, of course, was outdoors in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Lucky for them, it didn't rain! After they moved away from Colorado, we visited them two or three times in Utah, and remained quite friendly. I can recall numerous skiing trips with them, as well as a few hikes (although I never had any hope of keeping up with John).
I will always remember John's smile, enthusiasm, and zest for life. Like my husband, he left us while enjoying what he loved, but unfortunately all too soon. He will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to Marti, Jay and Eric in this time of grief and loss.
- Heidi Schnicker
Freshest in my memory of John was our visit last summer. It was a whirlwind of fun activities that my kids were only able to do because of John. He will be missed terribly. Our hearts are broken but we have so many wonderful memories of John and we will hold them close as they are very dear to us. Last summer in the short week we had with John we saw many nice sites around Gunnison. I was able to get him into a gondola at the continental divide, as we did not have the time to hike to the top. He was great entertainment for my kids. We also enjoyed Black Canyon & Telluride with the cable walk for a bit with my then 7 year old daughter. We chickened out, but I left my 12 year old son in his care as they continued and did other exciting climbing adventures. We would never have gone to Telluride to see the wonderful waterfall if we had not been shown it by John. A favorite thing for my son. Rafting close to his home in Gunnison was the most picturesque experience with a double rainbow as John took them over the rapids. My memories of John go back to as early as I can remember as my family went hiking with John’s family almost every summer in my youth. My husband, Andrew Pitcher, was able to attend most trips and really liked the long raft trips. We are very grateful John gave so much of his time to make arrangements for the activities when we would visit Colorado every year starting when our boy was 5 years old.
John asked me once, after a very long day of climbing, if "this was the most wasted I'd ever been." It was. I could barely lift my head from the table of the Burger King we had stopped to refuel at. After a little reflection, I'm sure my top five (ten?) most "wasted days" were spent adventuring with John. Walking down from Sheepshead or Tahquitz, or Cannon, in the dark, stumbling on wobbly legs, was the perfect end to a day out with John. I can't remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember every pitch, every move on those routes. So maybe I'd turn it around: many of my most memorable days were spent adventuring with John.
Thank you John, for all of the fun. I'm so happy that you were my friend.
Our campus is smaller without John. He had big ideas—bigger than most of us, bigger than many of us were able to imagine figuring out a way to incorporate. He had diverse interests. Not in the way that we all claim to, and may dabble in a little, or imagine that we might follow up on someday, but really diverse and interests over decades, and strong enough to the point of collaborating to invent new fields of study and ways of teaching, and consistently organizing his life around. I don’t know anyone else who combined honeymooning with mountaineering, and crag climbing AND attending operas (which, of course, also makes his wife Marti also one of those few very interesting people we should all aspire to be!).
Recently, I began to feel that John and I were in a special club that met about twice a week—when our trajectories back to, and away from our offices intersected on the way from/to rehearsals of the choir and wind symphony; faculty members taking a break from our jobs to do what we really enjoyed most. We didn’t talk about it, and didn’t need to, to recognize the kindred spirit in the other as our paths crossed. I’ll miss him, and our regular club ‘meetings’, and seeing him joyfully play his trombone.
I'm sorry to say I didn't really know Dr. Peterson at all, except as an exceptional colleague to my older brother, John Wacker, and as a wonderful friend to John's family of Nancy, Brian, and Elizabeth, after he was killed in a car accident on Mother's Day 2014 while traveling to Boulder during a Spring snowstorm.
Dr. Peterson was also very kind in leading a group of individuals who put together a book with all the comments and photos on my brother from his FB page and the memorial page that is still up on Western's site. A wonderful tribute, and one that my entire family - parents and younger brother - absolutely treasure.
Without a doubt, a most giving and caring individual, and certainly a tremendous loss to the entire Western and Gunnison community. My wife Terri and I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife and two children. I'm sure the same love and care that surrounded Nancy, Brian, and Elizabeth, will be the same for Dr. Peterson's family at such a heartbreaking and difficult time.
John, we all will really miss you.
How can I write anything worthy of such a great human being? The number of tributes here and on Marti's page attest to what an extraordinary, universally loved, and occasionally weird (but, nice weird) person you were.
How many stories can we all tell about sharing "adventures" with you, especially when you pushed us beyond our comfort zone (which you almost always did)? Well, I have many because I have know you and Marti since the late 1980's when we were all U of U grad students together.
There was the time when you caught my leader fall on Hobbit Book in Yosemite, and I ended up hanging upside down staring you in the face from about 3 feet away.
Or, on that same trip there was our epic climb of Snake Dike that you, Marti, and I did when we summited at 6 PM. We ended up walking down the trail in the dark with me being the only one who had brought a headlamp that I shared with you two.
But, I think my most memorable adventure with you was in 2008 doing what I called "24 Hours of Le Moab" when you picked up Simon Peyton Jones at the SLC Airport and then drove to my condo in Sandy. After that -- all in the next 24 hours -- we drove to Moab (about a 3 1/2 hour drive), kayaked on the Colorado river (I drove the car shuttle), did an evening hike to Fisher Towers, did a moonlight hike to Delicate Arch starting at about midnight (but, you told us we couldn't take headlamps because it was a full moon night -- bad idea), drove back to our campsite along the river and crashed for a few hours, went mountain biking in the Moab Bike Park at Sand Flats (something way beyond my ability and experience), rode our bikes on the road along the river to check out the petroglyphs, and then drove back to Park City. We went back to Park City instead of Salt Lake because you and Simon were joining Prof. Paul Hudak's computer science workshop where you were, of course, the outdoor recreation activities director (boating, climbing, hiking). Whew!
Well, I guess the MacDonald's in Heaven now has a new greatest customer. But, I heard their stock back down here on Earth plummeted 50% Monday morning.
I was a friend of John's from Yale where he got me into climbing, for which I am eternally grateful to him.
We skied, we ice climbed, he stuck me on lead, above all I had a lot of fun. Came back to North America again and again and it was an adventure every time. Arizona, Red Rock Canyon, New England, Gunks, etc. Visited him in Colorado, we climbed Black Canyon. John was an inspiration. He knew how to have fun and literally everyone *always* had fun. Always.
So many people will miss him. It almost feels like the amount of fun in the world will never be the same....
He and Brian shared a love of opera as well as mountain biking....and he was always inviting us to go with him to see an opera, a concert or to go mountain biking. He is the reason the four of us finally went on a raft trip and had an amazing time. He also made numerous trips to see us after we moved to Cheyenne. I'm so grateful to John for his kindness and positivity when we needed it most.
This is a such a great loss for the community, the university, his family, his friends.
In my view, John was the model for a liberal arts and Western professor. He was always available to help his students, loved the beautiful area we live in, and was active in the arts, particularly music. From time to time, John would visit my office to tell me about an opera he was going to see or remind me of an upcoming concert on campus. At concerts, John usually sat in the same area of the concert hall, and it will be sad not to see him there at the next one. I imagine John continue to blow his horn in heaven.
I think my climbing partner (Leon) and I met John while climbing at the Gunks in late 2000 with a bunch of other Connecticut climbers. We were newbies, but he didn't mind at all. Late in the day we ended up climbing with him on Minty. John led it and, because we only had one rope between us, had Leon and I tie in 15 feet apart on the other end to follow. John decided to do the first two pitches in one go. So we had to stop belaying and just start climbing after him. Scared the shit out of us.
When Leon left for Seattle the following Spring I started climbing with John whenever I could. I met Marty and the boys, I think his dog even bit me once. John mentored me for about a year and a half, recognizing in me a willing belay-slave he could drag around CT ticking off all the crappy little climbing crags that he knew about. I also went with him to go climbing in the Gunks (NY), Seneca Rocks (WV), The Stronghold (NM) and Cannon (NH). Over that time I came to love and fear him in equal measure.
John introduced me to some of the best friends I have ever had. He took me on adventures I will never forget. I knew him for only a short time, but he was an inspiration.
John was so much more than a friend and teacher. He was a mentor and helped shape my life to be what it is. I have only known john for the past 5 years but in that short time he became one of the most important and influential people in my life. Ever person has those select few men that help define them, their Father being the first. John was one of those men. He was able to pick up on all my strengths and weakness and make me better at everything I do. From the moment I met him be believed in and pushed me to be all that I could be.
He became a steadfast friend like he did to everyone he met and wouldn't take no for an answer. When my daughter was born you visited us to see her every chance you got and I was so happy that she would get to grow up with a role model like you in her life. She will know you and everything you have done for her Father.
John showed what it means to adventure and to live life to it's fullest and for that I am forever grateful. Your spirit and your legacy will live on in all of us. Climb on John, and I will see you again someday.
JP was an amazing professor, mentor, and friend. He taught me that for anything I do in life, to do it to the fullest. We went on several biking and climbing outings together and despite JPs goofy sature, that dude could kick your butt. "Old man strength" as he would call it. JP didn't just teach his students, he truly and deeply cared for them. He mentored and supported me for years while I was dealing with some personal battles. I am going to miss JP and will never forget what he did for me and everyone else. No matter where I go in life JP helped me get there and will always be there supporting all of us. JP will never be replaced and there will never be another person like him.
Climb on, JP
Please send our Deepest Sympathies to all faculty, staff and students on the loss of Dr. John Peterson. Our son, Nathaniel Ley was a close friend, student and partner in many of JP’s outdoor adventures and brass concerts. Mentor’s such as Dr. Peterson and Dr. Wacker will always be remembered in our family. Our condolences to Dr. Peterson’s family.
Kindest regards from the Ley family in Fort Collins, Colorado.
-Tom and Susi Ley
Growing up in Oregon, my dad's brother Uncle John was an enigmatic relative who lived far away on the East Coast. My two memories of him from that age were that he could turn his feet all the way around so his toes faced backwards and that one time at a family reunion he allowed his son Eric to ride around on the hood of the car (so cool). In elementary school I would read trip reports on his family website and dream of what it would be like to have such an adventurous life.
One weekend when I was a student at CU-Boulder John and his son Jay came by my house and picked me up for a rock climbing trip. I had maybe climbed once before near his house at Hartman Rocks, but that was it. John thought going up one of the flatirons would be a good first climb for me. I was terrified of the exposure, but the only way to get off the rock was to keep going up! I never totally stopped being terrified during years of subsequent rock climbs, but I kept going because I knew John would always be endlessly encouraging and that it was always worth it once you reached the summit. I can distinctly remember the sensation of sitting alone at a belay station on the side of a rock, feeling in awe of that specific vantage point, and waiting for the rope to tug so I could start climbing.
My first road trip with John was in May 2010 when I was invited to join him and Eric in the "fun mobile"' for a trip to the East Coast. The whole trip had been planned so John could arrive in Cleveland at the end of it to hear Bruckner's 8th - a piece he told me he had waited his whole life to see. That trip was the first time I got a sense of John's enormous network of friends. We stayed with those friends in several cities, my favorite accommodations being Paul Hudak's master house at Yale. I was introduced to every friend as his "crazy niece who thinks she wants to be a math teacher". Halfway through the trip I asked John to please stop calling me crazy and belittling my chosen career path. At that point in my relationship with John I didn't realize that to be teased and called names meant that he really cared about you. On that trip I also started to get a sense of how John always had his adventures completely planned out in his head, but didn't always share those details with fellow travelers - preferring to leave things as a surprise or to make potentially epic outings sound like they'd be very mellow. The greatest surprise on that trip was visiting the quirky Gillette Castle. On our trips John would always find some museum, kitschy tourist trap, or historical landmark he knew I would like. And he'd always wait to eat his McDonald's or Wendy's until we found one located near an acceptable healthy alternative for myself.
I was lucky to see a lot of John since he came to Denver often to visit his father Robert Peterson. John had a talent for finding a means for everyone to join in on his adventures, including his ninety-something-year-old father. Even after Grandpa started using a walker John would seek out walker-friendly trails around Denver and ensure that his father, who so loved the mountains, would get to experience them as late into life as possible. The three of us also enjoyed frequent trips to the symphony and opera. I am probably one of many people who can attribute their love of classical music to John's passion for it. I have fond memories of always sitting in the ring at the DCPA and watching John furiously drum on the outside of the ring in order to make as much noise as possible when the trombones stood up for applause at the end of a concert.
My uncle John was a monumental presence in my life and shaped me in countless ways. I will carry his indomitable spirit with me for the rest of my life (although I won't necessarily miss being called Math Teacher Lady).
A tribute to the one-of-a-kind JP! He will be greatly missed and never forgotten. My wife, Liz, and I will continue to celebrate life peacefully, wholly, and at a consistent pace of movement that would make JP proud.
Following are some fun and honest reflections about JP!
(1) I know JP enjoyed the sharp end of climbing and life.
(2) I'll never forget hanging with him in Yosemite around the summer of 2010. He showed up after an all-nighter of driving and immediately wanted to go climbing; but not until he first made a pure white bread and butter sandwich. This sums up JP's no-nonsense approach to the climber's diet.
(3) Many occasion I climbed my best when with JP. He had such caring confidence and an unwavering belief that anyone could climb any grade and any time.
(4) I got a bit testy with JP on a multi-pitch climb of Cathedral Peak in Yosemite. I certainly was not climbing my best or even interested in copious amounts of climbing that summer of 2010. However, after JP showed up, with butter bread in hand, the game was on. We hiked about an hour into Cathedral at a slow, methodical pace, which was difficult for my fast-paced trail running brain and legs to handle. In tow along with us were two newbie, multi-pitch climbers, friends I'd met in the Park because of my wife, Liz, who was a seasonal Park Ranger in Yosemite at the time. At the base of the awe inspiring, granite-laden nunatak of Cathedral Peak, I decided it was wise to form two teams of two - I'd lead one rope with JP leading the other. He got the young, energetic gal, I took the wild-eyed and former Iraqi war vet dude. Suffice it to say, I got spooked after the first pitch, not feeling like leading was my gig for the day. I calmly and a bit embarrassingly handed the climbing rack to my novice partner and asked him to lead the next pitch, which had now dovetailed to where JP stood. He looked at me approvingly and gave a wonderful, confident filled smile to the soon-to-be-no-longer-a-novice-lead-climber-Iraqi vet. The dude expertly sent the next pitch, but at the anchor was visibly shaking and exhausted with the exposed effort on the sharp end of the rope. We then became one big rope team with JP expertly leading the remaining few pitches. It was a warm, bluebird day, reminding us how good it was to be in the mountains. The rappel off the backside and hike out went smooth. The food and drink later into the early evening were awash with camaraderie and a buzz of anticipation of future great adventures to come. This is how I will always remember JP - a friend who flowed with contagious courage and brought out the best in others. He never stopped giving and always wanted to show the rest of us a better view, usually from the top!
(5) As his neighbor of many years, what I remember most about JP and his family, was the constant hum of movement around the house, especially outside it. Liz and I enjoyed seeing random pick-up trucks stop by or park in JP's and Marti's driveway. It usually meant another outdoor adventure loving friend was in town. To me and Liz, it was a cue to go enjoy something we loved. Furthermore, we always smiled and marveled at the constant synergistic flow of kayaks, mountain bikes, skis, and climbing/camping gear being shuffled from garage to car to house or some combination throughout the day, weeks, and months. Forever, JP is immortalized as a "doer" and one who always followed his heart onto the water, into the mountains, over the snow, and up meandering rock faces.
(6) A fun and endearing (and enduring) picture in my head is that of JP leaving his house, usually on a windy weekend afternoon or early evening week day, on his mountain bike with his size 13+ (?) shoes hanging over the pedals in a duck footed position. Of course his seat was a bit low and posture erect. He pedaled proudly and deliberately. Up into Hartman Rocks he went, winding along and up single track, then dive bombing down circuitous pathways. He always returned, never worse for wear, and with a significant, defining grin on his face.
(7) So, it is the outdoor spirit, heart, and mind of JP I'll always remember. He will continue to teach me humility and that actions are always louder than words. Climb on, JP!
It seems like there were always more opportunities around the corner -- he came back East often, and pestered me to come to visit his own personal stores of rock and trails in Colorado. I would have liked to do that. I'm sad that those are gone, and that John is gone from this earth. He was such an enthusiastic, boisterous driver of adventure, that it seems like his particular spark of energy was a core driver of the climbing world. I was just one of the many people who was lucky to get pulled along by that energy from time to time, as his Flickr page shows. I'll surely miss him, the fellowship of the rope we shared, and the wild unknown that was yet to come.
John, you are off belay.
What a shock. Mary and I are dismayed.
John and I shared climbing, computer science and opera for over 30 years. I first climbed with John bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir in Ft. Collins when he was visiting Colorado State University to lecture on computer science. Our first roped climbing together was in Tucson in 1985. I had never climbed in Tucson, and he was a great guide as we climbed four long routes on Rappel Rock. Our last climb together was the Casual Route in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison a couple of years ago. Over the years, we climbed together in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Lumpy Ridge, Gunnison and the Boulder area. This past November we had planned on climbing in Eldorado and attending an opera together when he would be visiting Denver, but the timing didn’t work out.
John was a fine partner—safe, helpful, outgoing, and encouraging. As I slowed up over the years, he showed a patience I didn’t know he had. I’ll miss his energy and enthusiasm. An example of his generous spirit occurred just after his first child was born while he and Marti were living in Tucson. It was late December. Two partners and I had camped on Mt. Lemmon, when an unusually severe snow storm blew in. Given that this was Tucson, we were not prepared for such weather. John drove up the highway on Mt. Lemmon to search for us and insisted that we stop freezing and stay with him and Marti. I shall never forget their generous hospitality while dealing with a newborn. John was a devoted family man to his parents, his wife and his sons.
He will be long remembered and sorely missed by those of us fortunate enough to have enjoyed his company, his climbing enthusiasm, and his generous spirit.
Mary and I send our condolences and love to Marti, Eric, and Jay. Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.
Unfortunately, our photos of us with John are hard copies buried deep in storage with the rest of our photos. While we had many epic adventures with John and his family since our meeting in the mid 90's it was a different kind of meeting that happened and which was most epic, most memorable. Of course we all know that John and Marti lived in Phoenix and had a life before CT ( I know, hard to believe). After my husband joined the military we were looking for someone to go back country skiing with in the Bay Area we met a gentleman from San Francisco. After posting online and meeting in a public place we decided this guy from the Bay Area was safe enough and we would go on a few adventures together. The entire time he would talk about his outdoor adventures and of course we would talk about our epic adventures with the Petersons (I believe that is how we referred to them) but all without mentioning first and last names together. Finally, one day after many stories, many discussions and a few outings the name John Peterson must have passed our lips, then and only then did this guy become very excited. Without understanding his initial excitement we had come to learn that both of our stories were, as he referred to them as THE JOHN PETERSON stories, about one and the same man....Dr. John Peterson (and of course of his wife Marti). We began to recount even more stories and had more laughs throughout the friendship as John Peterson Epic Adventures. A man, a husband, a father,a friend, mentor, and inspiration to all who met him. Remember we are all part of the 6 degrees of John Peterson (and of course his amazing wife Marti). The world will be a less bright place with out you in it John.
On our trip down the Rogue river, I always wanted to be in John’s boat because he had a big bag of M&M’s that he shared.
JCP always made the crazy seem normal so I did it, and let my kids do it. There was nobody like him. I think my kids were a little wary of him when they met him as little kids. He must have seemed like a big, weird giant with a funny t-shirt and big shoes but then they realized he was a kid, just like them. And with every adventure we joined him for, they learned he was the funnest big kid ever with surprises around every corner. He was always looking to do things that the kids would find fun, from rock holes in JTree, water slides along the Rogue, and rappels and swings in Moab. I know he had a profound influence on them just as he had on so many other kids. And just like he had on so many adults. Thank you, John. I will attempt to remember your spirit by adventuring more and worrying less. Winnie, Jacqueline, Skyler and I will miss you terribly.
-Colleen Purwins (Moose)
I am so sad to hear about John Peterson. I always found him to be thoughtful in his comments, and a person who worked hard to make Western all that it could be. And he was a lot of fun! We will all remember his great humor!
My brother is a disciple of JP. I have had great mentors in my life, but I have never been as close to one as my brother has been to JP. I had the pleasure of meeting JP only a couple of times. On one occasion I went climbing with JP, my brother, and a couple other Western State nerds. My brother and his friends had graduated by then and were off reaping the benefits of their hard work and their relationship with John. While I noticed all of the quirks those close to him tease him for, what struck me most was how relentlessly John asked my brother and friends about opportunities he might be able to present to his current students. He was spending time with some of his best, continuing to tend to relationships while he cultivated his next graduates. It made me wonder which former students he spoke with hanging from a rock to make sure my brother got the opportunities that have put him in the position he is today. I spent very little time with John Peterson. But in that time, it was impossible not to notice the incredible sphere of influence he produced. I’m also keenly aware that I can’t even comprehend how far and wide that influence actually stretches. I have listened to my brother and his friends speak about JP for years, and certainly in the last few days. It makes me sad for the students who would have taken his class 5 years from now. God bless his family, God bless his students, and God bless Western state. Those of us who even had the opportunity to observe JP’s influence are praying for you and thinking of you.
JP gave me a hard time most of the time I was at Western but I think it was because he knew I thrived off of it. It gave me a sort of "I'll show you attitude". It is that attitude that eventually lead me to graduate even though it took one extra year and adding another major. JP was like that with all of his students and friends he found the best way to bring out the best qualities in a person. Without him as a mentor I would never have graduated or be where I am in life. He spent many nights with me in the nerd corner until we were kicked out by the librarian. I don't know one other professor that cared that much about his students. JP taught me a lot more than computer science, he taught me that if you have super powers you must use them for good. He also taught me something that will stick with me forever and that is to never sacrifice your happiness for a paycheck, and to always take people up on a last minute adventure.
I remember I worked at McDonalds for a couple years in school and served JP his big mac at least once a week no mac sauce no pickles(correct me if anyone remembers).So thanks for getting me into a career that doesn't involve flipping your burgers! To one of the greatest mentors I have ever known! You really had a huge impact on my life and so many others!! A mere thank you is not enough for all you have done in my life. CLIMB AND KAYAK in peace!! I'll think of you every time I write a line of code, raft a river, or climb a mountain which is pretty regular in my life thanks to you! You will be sorely missed ='(
I first met John Peterson around 1994, because we both were interested in climbing the Titan, a scary tower near Moab. For several years we emailed, I finally met him during one of his visits to Denver. After he and Marti moved to Gunnison, our daughter Allison attended his Computer Camp something like 5 years in a row. The camp was all John ... computer programming with loads of outdoor activities. The camp would end with a BBQ at John & Marti's house, where all the campers would show the results of their projects.
John had tremendous enthusiasm, and nothing excited him more than introducing others to the outdoor adventures he loved. He was always willing to loan mountain bikes, or rafting gear, so that we didn't have to miss out on an outdoor activity. Our entire family morns his loss.
It's amazing how one person can touch so many lives. I never went adventuring with you, but I always enjoyed staying after class to chat. Every conversation was enlightening. Without your encouragement and guidance, I wouldn't be where I am now. You did everything you could to help your students succeed and cared about every single one of them so much. You believed in me more than I did most of the time, and encouraged me to take opportunities to learn and grow that I wouldn't have gone for otherwise. I'll always remember you and everything you did for me. I wish I had the words to better express my wholehearted gratitude, but these are the only ones I can find. Thank you for everything JP.
John Peterson (aka JP) was one of those professors that truly invested in his students both in and out of the classroom.Within the classroom he did whatever he could to help his students succeed in the CIS program. The western CIS students had a dedicated “Nerd Corner” in the library where we would work together with JP to tackle projects and assignments. Outside of the classroom/campus he was no different, except his focus was on success in life. I unfortunately did not get to join JP on any of his adventures but all you needed to do was to listen to stories from fellow students to know what kind of impact he had on their lives. JP will live on in many, many ways…..through stories, through memories, through the success of the students he dedicated himself toward, just to name a few. John, thank you for your time, thank you for your patience, thank you for your willingness for help me strive both in my career and my life. You will be missed greatly and I look forward to seeing you again someday.
For the longest time, I never knew what kind of food John ate. Never crossed my mind, really. I mean, everyone has their quirks. A hatred for mushrooms, perhaps. Or a tendency to slather hot sauce on everything. I just figured John was within that band of normalcy, more or less.
My first encounter with John was in 2000, at a physical manifestation of one of the best worst ideas on the internet at that time, which was for a bunch of mostly strangers to climb rocks in upstate New York on December 26. By day's end, we were all frozen through, and wanted to retreat to a warm pub, but there was John, larger than life and full of exuberance, screaming "There's always time for Minty!". Bewildered but intrigued by this crazed giant, I followed him, and it turned out to be an auspicious start to years of stochastic adventure.
I didn't learn about John's eating habits until 2006, driving to Gunnison with another random stranger whom John had ordered me to pick up. Because that's what he did. By sheer force of character, communities formed in the eddies of John's wake as he charged through life.
"You're driving 4 hours each way? Pick this person up who lives vaguely near you and bring her with, and we'll all go mountain biking together!"
"I want you to walk into this person's office and just yell in 'WIMP!' No, you are not allowed to explain anything. Ok, fine, after 10 seconds of waiting, you are allowed to say that Peterson told you to say that."
"Switzerland, eh? Call this person and they will take you climbing. Hm, I guess I should let them know about you."
And so it went. And that's what I'll miss most about him.
Not his amazing capacity to test the limits of the bottomless basket o' fries at Red Robin, nor his endlessly imitable verbal tics ("Well y'know...", "Oh bite me!", "Ok guy", ad infinitum), but rather, his ability to create a community wherever he went, in his egoless way, never centered around him, just a bunch of like-minded fellow travelers with a nose for adventure (and a tolerance for managed chaos).
People like John come along only rarely, if ever. He leaves a hole in our hearts and lives hard to fill. What I'll carry with me, always, is his infectious spirit of the now, seizing whatever opportunities come what may, and knowing that no matter how stressful or distracting or busy lives can get, there's always time for Minty.
If you were around, you'd ask: "What's the password?" before letting the boys get through the other side of the bridge and they would stand there, shouting out: "Spiderman? Donkey poop? Water? Five hamburgers on a bun? ..." until you finally could not laugh any longer and would let them through, only to sit there yourself, behind the invisible wall on our way back, answering the same question with: "White monkeys? Boys are cool? Password? I am John Peterson? ..." until the boys let you through. That was a year ago when you took us to Escalante Canyon and carried Miro on your back for most of the hike, 6 miles and all. Or when we went to Hartman Rocks a few months ago and you and Eric hoisted Miro to the highest point on that bouldering rock as if was no big deal. We just watched you in awe, and are still in awe.
Thank you for being our Big John, and for teaching the boys to love, treasure, explore and not fear the outdoors and its challenges, for dragging us up and down trails, and for all the trips up and down the Taylor river, but most of all: for being the most loving, caring, and generous friend a family could ask for. Thank you for spreading your crazy goofiness to all things and people around, for being my brilliant but humble colleague, and for living in the moment, having the ability to make everyone around feel loved. I am sure you were misunderstood by many, but to those who knew you, you were a rock!
Remember that time we went to Wendy's for ice cream? Or when you would stop by my office and chat, while I was desperately trying to finish grading some stupid paper or an e-mail? and you'd start with: "Soo, we are thinking of a little adventure this weekend, want to come?" And I would sometimes find a very reasonable excuse why I could not ... :-( I think you knew but never stopped inviting us, and sharing with us parts of your magic. Thank you!
I hate that you are gone, I am mad ... and in shock and heartbroken. But I think you would not approve of this ... so I promise you this, from now on, when things get tough, I am going to "John Up" and take more time to be outdoors, hike the trails, climb the cracks, not sweat the small, or if, stuff so much, take time to notice the eddies in the river, hug my friends and family more and bear witness to your uniqueness and singular nature simply by being a decent, caring and adventurous human being, and parent.
By the way, when I told the boys you were gone, they said: "Mama, don't cry, Big John's spirit is a lightning bug now, and you can talk to him again tonight." Shine your light, my friend! Because I need it to see better. Your friends, The Strubles (Maria, Darren, and most of all -Damien and Miro, your buddies in adventure)
John Peterson > You will be greatly missed but the lessons and foundation for my love of the outdoors will forever be with me…. inspiring me to adventure into the unknown. It is with you that I was given the opportunity to learn to lead climb. This led to so many adventures of: Leaving at the crack of dawn to drive for hours for an epic climb while listening to classical music. Most of the times I only knew that we were climbing, never knowing how long it would take to get there or even how long the climb was. I was just going along on one of John’s adventures. We always left the climbs tired, happy, and hungry, the drive home always had us stopping at Wendy’s, Red Robin or Five Guys.
It is the adventures with you and your family that made my life happier when struggling with the balance of college life. You always included anyone willing to say yes, and sometimes we were included in adventures as if we didn’t have a choice. Rafting, skiing, climbing, and hikes all over Colorado and neighboring states. There were times that I was so scared but your assurance without a doubt that I can do it, gave me the courage to move past that and to trust myself.
I never met anyone that can orchestrate these amazing trips with people you met in your travels from all over the country and world from different age groups and backgrounds sharing in similar passions. These shared experiences left an everlasting impression that strikes deep in the core of people’s soul. If that wasn’t enough. You always made sure to document these trips…. these experiences so that people could always have that moment with them.
One of my fondest memory is when we got done with a climb (The Sheepshead at Cochise Stronghold), and hiking back to the car we came across a beautiful horse. I was so intrigued by how friendly it was, and without even realizing it, you made sure to snap a picture so I would have that memory forever. You John was one of a kind that inspired so many, and inspired me to become a better person. You and your family is in my heart forever as being my Colorado Family. My heart goes out to Marti, Eric, and Jay. I am truly sorry for your loss, and I am thankful to have been part of your family while in Colorado and to share in your kindness of including others in your adventures.
Back in grad school at the University of Utah, when John and I were 2 of the occupants of a 10-person office, John patiently taught me to solve a Rubik's cube, to cross-country ski, and to use a programming trick that I was later able to incorporate into my masters project. I must confess that I've forgotten how to solve the cube, I only went cross-country skiing once, and I tend to write much simpler programs these days. But each of those lessons made my life richer.
It is a shock every time that I realize that John will never again come to our house, show us photos of his amazing adventures (often featuring Marti, Eric, Jay, Katherine, or other people we care about), and convince Sandy and me to go on some low-key adventures that even we can handle. I'd like to think that John has finally reached heights that the limitations of being mortal would not allow. I believe that bits of John live on in the hearts of his family, his friends, every student he has ever worked with, and every child he has ever known; urging each of us to try things that we would not otherwise try, and to reach for our dreams.
Many of my happiest memories of my childhood was spending time with uncle John and aunt Marty going rafting, hiking, camping and rock climbing all over Arizona. In fact one of my earliest memories is both of our families watching the sunset together. I can also say that he is the reason why I grew up loving computers and ended up taking computer science in college. When I was little and visiting him at his university in Tucson he brought me to his computer lab where he works and showed me some of the project he was working on. He also let me play on a computer that was unlike any I've seen before. It was the first I have ever seen that had a mouse, and have the ability to show and draw pictures. Not only that, I could actually print out the pictures I had made. The computer my Dad had only had the ability to show text and print text on a tractor fed printer. Looking back on it now, it seems rather silly. I realize that it was just a black-and-white Macintosh with a version of paint, but back then I was blown away by it. When I was in grade school he gave me my first introduction to programming, with a logo/turtle type drawing program that used a list of commands like 'turn 20', 'forward 40', 'pen up' repeat 1000 times etc. to draw pictures. Just a few commands could be used with repeat to create pretty designs, but John seemed a little surprise later on to find out that I typed in a long series of commands that plotted out a castle. He then showed me how to program with the language BASIC and I used that language for years to write games all the way to high school. I have not spent that much time with him since he moved to Colorado and we moved to Washington, but whenever he visited we always had an amazing time. I wish very much that we could have spent more time with him and I will miss him always.
When I was 10 I had the opportunity to fly, all by myself, from Washington to Connecticut to visit my aunt Marti and "Unka" John. On that trip I got to do things that I never had the opportunity to do before. Things such as rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and many other amazing activities. It was just about the most incredible 2 weeks I could imagine. These were all sports that I loved doing! John even had a crazy idea to take a series of pictures designed to scare my parents as much as possible. On one bike ride we went up a mountain and at the top uncle John said there was a patch of blueberries. He also told me that he refused to eat them saying, "I do not like them Sam I am." When we got there I couldn't stop myself from trying to convince him to try them. I ended up having to pull out the big guns with a "triple double doggy dare!" And I managed to get him to eat a single blueberry! He told me that he still did not like blueberries, but I vividly remember the amazed comments from the rest of the family that I was able to get him to try one. I'll miss my Uncle John but always remember him.
-Sarah Peterson Floyd
John cared deeply about everyone around him, and gave generously whenever he had a chance. When I first arrived in New Haven John surprised me with his warm, genuine concern about my well being: He took me to a colorful thrift store where I got towels, plates, cutlery, and all kinds of things that one needs to bootstrap an apartment, and suggested a couple of furniture stores. Several of the items acquired based on these directions remained with me as I moved to Houston and then Halmstad, and often reminded me of John even when it had been years since we talked. John regularly asked me and others in the group if we wanted him to get us theatre or music concert tickets when he was getting his. This exposed me to some of the most exceptional theater and music I have ever enjoyed. At the office, whenever I would walk into his office he would have wonderful classical music playing in the background. When we met for the last time this year, I was blown away by his great work on teaching music with Haskell. Thank you for everything, John, and may your next adventure be as nurturing as you have made this one for me and so many others.
- Walid Taha
Those of us who knew John from the Yale, Western, and Haskell communities remember his brilliance, warmth, and sense of humor. At Yale he was the perfect foil to Paul Hudak, and I consider it not coincidental that the two of them shared the name of half of the Beatles. They too wrote great music, both with and without lambdas.
John had been trying to get me out to visit him in Colorado for years now, and finally this summer, I had set aside a few days to do so. There was certainly going to be bicycle climbing, but I also knew he would not let me get away without a little rock climbing as well, which I have not done before. It would have been a memorable lesson.
Last week I learned that John planned to spend a chunk of time at Brown as part of a new grant he was writing. The last time he was here was as the external committee member on Greg Cooper's dissertation, which he influenced deeply and generously. Nobody would have been more welcome back. We will miss everything about him.
John Peterson was an remarkable man. I’ll never forget the first time I met him, It was hanging out with some computer science majors in the Spring of 2008 during my first semester at Western. It was almost midnight and a couple of the students decided that they wanted to go ask Peterson some questions about projects they were working on. I followed them along to Hurst Hall, to find Peterson in his office just working away. He was instantly eager to start helping his students the minute they walked in the door and we were there until just after one that morning. Not only was he eager to help these students, but it surprised me that he took an interest and struck up a conversation with me while helping them. Sometime later Peterson convinced me to continue to take computer science classes, and then got me to declare it as a minor, and then finally to declare it as my second major. However, this is just a miniscule glimpse at the man and teacher JP was. On numerous occasions Peterson would be with his students studying and helping with their projects past midnight. He would engage and make all those who came around feel welcome, Peterson would find a genuine way to connect with them.
It never ceased to amaze me how often he would walk into the classroom or into the ‘Nerd Corner’ of the library with a smile on his face. He was always kind, full of knowledge, and always encouraging. It was marvelous and wondrous to see how he interacted with everyone he met, and how he built others up. I truly believe one of Peterson’s greatest strengths was to see great potential in others and then help to draw it out of them.
Thank you Dr. John Peterson for all that you saw and did for me. I can’t wait for the day I get to tell you all about the adventures that you helped lead me to.
I didn't know John for very long, but you scarcely had to spend an hour with him to understand that he was one of the kindest and most selfless people you could hope to meet. My condolences to those who were fortunate enough to have known him well and who are suffering deeply from his untimely and unexpected departure.
John Peterson was a child of the mountains. There is really no other way to think about him for me. I remember the pattern to his voice, the confidence and encouragement he gave me, a very timid climber at the time, to free-air rappel at the Gunks. His surprise and willingness to give me a hug I insisted I needed (and did, because it was terrifying) at the bottom of each pitch because it would get me down the next one. Of course that frozen lake was "fine" to cross-country ski on. It was. Of course it was. I knew John from my brief time in New Haven, when I was dating someone who was a graduate student in the CS department at Yale. I didn't know much about what John did professionally at the time, only joining him at times on these wild climbing adventures—and also once watching an incredible slide show of his parents' mountaineering days in their early lives—and his. I'm terribly sad for Marti and the boys, his colleagues and friends, and for the organizations he supported and worked with to improve Haskell and Climbing (not sure about the order, there). My own connection with JP stopped when that relationship ended and I left New Haven, but I will always remember him fondly as a man at home in the mountains, who challenged all of us in gentle ways to be brave and better explorers.
“When you lose a person with whom you've shared a rope, whether a few climbs or a few hundred, a piece of you goes missing.
Climbing is one of the activities that truly creates a bond between participants, one that transcends age."
Yes, that's true. I started climbing with John back around 1973. I was in High School and signed up for the Colorado Mountain Club's rock climbing school. JP and Jim Montrose were instructors, and we hit it off really quickly. By the time I finished the course we were up almost every weekend rock climbing, ice climbing, hiking or skiing. He even helped me to make graph showing developmental trends in twin tamarin marmoset monkeys I was raising at the zoo. He was great at those kinds of things. I drove over to the campus and we were there for a few hours making that darn graph. He was a crazy guy, living life to the fullest and dragging us on some hairy but wild climbs. All good memories.
-Michael A. Huffman
My heart is completely broken as I listen to the music that you loved so much, trying in vain to compile it into a one-hour representation of an entire, enormous life. I'll never be able to hear Mahler 2, or Shostakovich 5, or the Firebird without thinking of you and all the many memories we have shared. In my young life, you have contributed nearly all of my knowledge of orchestral repertoire, simply by hours and hours of conversation. I could never talk to anyone else in depth about music like I could with you...For the last few days, I have continually been asking myself why I didn't record those conversations like I wanted to--if not to capture that immense pool of knowledge, then certainly just to hear your cooky voice once more.
I have never claimed to be a climber, but that didn't stop you from dragging me up a rock. Half way through all three (total) of my climbs with you, I've asked myself, "why the hell did I let him talk me into this again??" But sharing a high five with you at the top taught me so much about myself...and because of you, I'll never be the same.
I owe you big time for all the concerts, climbs, hours, miles, memories, laughs and hamburgers...I know you said that I could pay you back with sweet tickets to my symphony someday. One thing is for sure, you'll live on wherever there is great music being played...I know I'll take you wherever I go.
I'd like to think that someday, when the heavens burst open with glorious music, that you'll be somewhere in the trombone section. But, you hardly ever practiced, and you know, you still have to pass the audition!
Until then JP, my dear friend...
I was always the Wimpy Viking to John. After some arguing, I was allowed to pay some gas money with my "petro-dollars" when we drove up and down the East coast with the Fun mobile searching for a decent river to boat. The Wimpy Viking typically bailed out of a river stretch or got scared of some cliff letting someone else lead it. Still John insisted on having me along. Perhaps it had something to do with my Telemark skiing.
On our long drives, he lectured me -the foreigner- about
US history: the Louisiana purchase, the Richmond battle and the Eisenhower highway system. "You see Idar, the theory is..." he often started off with.
I last met John and his family climbing in Mount Lemmon near Tucson, AZ a few years ago. As often before, we experienced some glorious sunsets with aching muscles ready for the nearest burger restaurant.
John, I will miss you deeply, but your aura will still be present through my memories. I have tried to the best of my abilities to bring other outdoor beginners along, and I've told them that this is because I know a guy called John Peterson. Rest in peace dear friend.
I have always been a somewhat anxious person. Pretty much the opposite of a thrill-seeker. So when we first started our adventures with John, I was pretty apprehensive. I remember when Marti told me something like, “I know it’s not always easy, but you can tell John No.” So I did sometimes. But I came to appreciate his adventurous ways and he shared some amazing sights with us. Rafting the Taylor was delightful. Delicate arch at sunset was incredible. Bridal Veil Falls was so beautiful and that house at the top was worth the rocky ride.
He would assure me adventures were going to be “Isaiah-approved” and carried my son on his shoulders many times to share these wonderful moments. John and Marti have been so loving and supportive of our son.
John not only took the time to encourage me to pursue my interests and try new things, he made it possible. He came to our apartment every Tuesday night for a semester to babysit my son so I could play music again. We went to plays and concerts in Creed and Aspen. We went to an opera broadcast in Grand Junction. I treasure those moments and the time we had to get to know him (and all his quirks and knowledge) on those long drives.
John was a great friend and mentor to my husband, Greg. He supported our family. He encouraged us to spend time together, and was a great model for relationships and experiences being the most important things in life. I will miss him very much, but I know he will always be with us.
JP and Graham were cranking their way up acid rock until I got my lead time on the next pitch. My toes blew out in my climbing shoes, so I was unable to make it up. Certainly not the only time I’ve been stopped on an adventure with JP. The part that stuck with me was that evening and the next afternoon – we went to see Mahler symphony 7, twice! I mention this one, not because it’s the funniest, or most successful, but because it’s the first time I began to understand JP. There were many adventures before and after, but this one brought together the brash and the outdoorsman quality (where asshole is a compliment, and wanker is the highest form of insult). With the sensitive and spiritual quality of a musician. I saw for the first time that these glaring contradictions were in fact balanced and whole. JP, the gentle giant, became more than an adventurer or a musician, he became a man worth aspiring to. I will miss him dearly.
I climbed with John about 10 days in total, but *our* fondness for him is much more than what would come from just those outings.
*Our* includes my nieces - the older one is now 16 and she met him (and you) when you lived in CT and John had taken us out climbing. We stopped by your book filled house and were met by the dog at the door.
*Our* includes my wife - we met John for a rainy day at the Gunks (she is deadly scared of heights) and John helped diffuse her fear by making jokes (with me as the target, which was totally fine) and setting up a top rope on some 4th class slab.
*Our* includes my daughter - climbing and then rappelling together at one of the CT cliffs. Playing "Is this a stick?". I am trying to figure out how to tell her that John-mama (mama = uncle in hindi) is not with us any more.
*Our* includes my climbing partners Bob, Drake, Mike, Laurent - he met them briefly, but they remember him vividly. And of course Marc-Andre and Rahul who knew him more.
What always struck me is John's constant effort to make sure everyone in the (often diverse) group had a good time - kids, bring them along; beginners, sure, why not; hot shot climber, John will make sure the appropriate pairing occurs. I will miss him deeply.
Worth singling out for me (from many experiences) is last fall's colloquium that John came to give at Mudd (and for which he was awarded "exemplary paper" at SIGCSE). That work has led to a class that is scheduled to be offered here this fall. The talk was inspiring -- and it is a lasting reminder of John's generosity, engagement, and kindness.
After nearly a ten-year stewardship process the Stanley Hart property in Connecticut, which contains the historic Ragged Mountain Main Face crag and 55-adjoing acers, was transferred to the Ragged Mountain Foundation on July 9, 1999. The Ragged Mountain Foundation became one of the first “land trusts” in the United States specializing in protecting, and ensuring access, for climbers. Because of his experience, intellect, and outgoing personality, John Peterson was an influential board member of the Ragged Mountain Foundation during this crucial time period. I was privileged to serve alongside John as an officer of the Ragged Mountain Foundation, and spend time with him at the crags. His passing was a sad day for climbers around the country, and by many in the Connecticut climbing community.
My family and I are going to miss John immensely, since he was a fantastic individual who has been a constant in my professional life and in my family’s outdoor adventures. John and I started working at Western the same year, so my kids were among his first recruits for his “Hurst Adventure Club,” which he informally created soon after arriving on campus. John filled the HAC with the kids of as many faculty from Hurst (and beyond) as he could recruit and organized weekly outings for the kids (and their parents) to get out and about after school or on weekends to do something exciting in the outdoors. Of course, HAC was not complete without a wikipage with entries for each kid in the club! These outings provided great introductions to various outdoor activities for our kids and others’. As our kids grew older, they became involved in other organized activities that precluded them from joining John’s adventures. Nonetheless, John would stop me in the hall on a regular basis and say, “When are you going to get those kids out to have some fun? Well, all I can say is that you should have them come with us when we…..” Even though the kids usually could not go with John, he never gave up and the kids were appreciative, since they did enjoy outings with him when they could make it.
Despite his devotion to all things outdoor, John was also an excellent colleague who worked tirelessly to improve and build the computer science program and Western’s excellence as well. He was obviously dedicated to his students and could often be found helping them through various programming problems. His summer computer camps were well run and educational. Multiple kids I know have gone through them and had only positive things to say. Finally, John served with me for a number of years on the Curriculum Committee, where he was an invaluable and involved member, despite being Chair of the General Education Committee for a portion of that time as well. John spearheaded the creation of the Collaborate library of curriculum proposals, which allowed CC members and other faculty to more easily stay on top of the proposal revisions as they were submitted. As Chair of the Curriculum Committee, I am personally indebted to John for his goodwill and his willingness to take on the extra thankless work of maintaining this library.
We and many others are going to miss John a great deal. Personally, we are going to miss his frequent offers to get out do something fun. Professionally, his absence will be felt in Hurst and across campus. However, his memory will live on within us and he will be in our thoughts whenever we are out biking, cross-country skiing, climbing, kayaking, or rafting.
My sincere condolences to family and friends. Having "met" John via the wreck.climbing newsgroup in the very early 90's, I was always inspired by his trip reports with Marti and the kids; you could get exhausted just reading the non-stop action. Although he connected to climb with Tim a number of times over the years, I had to wait for the planets to align to finally rope up with him in Sedona in March of 2006 (with Tim, of course). We'll miss you and your boundless energy John! Belay off.