John White Sansing '65
Deceased September 20, 1991
John Sansing came to Amherst from Memphis, TN, in the fall of 1961 and charmed and entertained us until his death on September 20, 1991, in Washington, D.C. True to his life, he continued to entertain us even after his passing, with a “Best of Sansing” video of highlights from his “life in Washington” segment which ran on the local “p.m. magazine” in the 1980s. At his direction, the video was show continuously at the celebration of his life which followed the memorial service in Washington on September 27.
John managed to lead the life he wanted, and the happiness that resulted was obvious. He graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1968 and delayed practice to travel for a year. After a brief (but sufficient) taste of Washington regulatory law, he quickly and avidly took up criminal defense work, become legendary as an effective and tenacious advocate for people with whom John had little in common but their humanity. Most benefited greatly from his legal skills, and, no doubt, many from simply knowing him.
Always a writer, he published freelance work until 1978, when he joined Washingtonian magazine, where he became executive editor. There he distinguished himself and his magazine with remarkable work about both the most and least serious issues facing our society. As entertaining as his articles about baldness cures were, his pieces on race relations were profound. Always a writer who combined clarity of style with rational argument, his work reflected his passion and his humor, his sense of justice and his wit. John loved writing; not merely the act of putting words on paper, but the act of reaching an audience, whether he was telling us something we needed to know or something we simply would enjoy learning. John’s passion and gift for communicating made him the best of company, whether indirectly, as our class secretary, or directly, as a friend who was always ready to meet and talk.
While he became skillful at skiing, scuba diving and wind surfing almost as an act of defiance against his early career as a non-athlete, the center of John’s life was the time he could spend with Lucille, who matched his wit and his fine sense of irony, and their daughter Dina, now sixteen. The three were so extraordinarily close that even Dina’s adolescence never kept them from openly and notoriously delighting in each other’s company. What John gave to them can be measured only by the extraordinary degree to which it was matched in their return of his love and devotion.
For all these reasons we, and they, will miss him with a pain that will in time diminish but remember him with a joy that never will.
Paul T. Ruxin ‘65