Deceased April 18, 2010
John has left us. He died peacefully at his much-loved home in Greenwich, having lived a remarkable life.
John served as a frontline ambulance driver with the American Field Service during the war, though he never talked about it. Attached to the British Eighth Army, he lived through the battles for North Africa ending in the surrender in Algeria, then up the boot of Italy to the battle for Cassino and the capture of Rome.
His business life in radio and television advertising were spent at J. Walter Thompson, Compton and BBDO. Among his major account responsibilities were Lucky Strike and General Electric; the last included authoring the GE exhibit at the World’s Fair. He also wrote for many then-well-known stars such as Don Ameche, Cliff Arquette, Bing Crosby, Mr. Wizard and over several years for the still-well-known Ronald Reagan when he served as host of the General Electric Theater. Retiring from advertising and television, he became an editor at the Seabury Press. He also wrote two books, My God Can Lick Your God and The Irish Dutchman.
John’s years of effort for Amherst culminated in his receiving the Distinguished Service Award in 2009. It stated in part: “… you have served the Class of 1935 in many capacities over the years, which include associate agent, class secretary from 1999-2008 and honorary president of the Society of the Alumni from 2004-05. In your longtime role as class secretary, you worked tirelessly to keep your classmates informed of each other’s lives.”
John’s love of Amherst was best exemplified by his early and passionate advocacy of greater opportunity for minorities at the college. Having contributed quietly and consistently to that achievement, he was immensely proud of Amherst’s leadership in that arena today.
A final request in his obituary was vintage John: “No confederate money, please.”
He leaves his wife, Mary; sons John ’69, Robert and Thomas; daughter Martha; and seven grandchildren.
Glenn W. Petersen