Deceased March 25, 2001

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In Memory

John died suddenly at his home in Wayland, Mass., on March 25, 2001.

John’s friendship enriched my life. He was so kind and caring and unselfish. I have spoken to and corresponded with many of John’s friends over the past several weeks, and in our sorrow, we have all shared stories of how supportive and encouraging John had been to us at important times in our lives. No matter how busy he was, he always made the time to be there for his friends when it really mattered.

John was an exceptional student at Amherst who approached his studies with a great intensity. Those of us who got to know him well realized that he devoted the same intensity to life and his many friendships. As our fellow roommate Greg Allen ’78 recalled, we would sometimes have to cajole John to take a break from the books, but our motivation was entirely selfish. We were not trying to get John to join us, because it was for his own good but rather because any activity was just more fun with John around.

After Amherst, John obtained a master’s in forest science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and while there, he met his wife, Marcia. His career path ultimately led to a specialty in geographic information systems. At the time of his death, John was a senior vice president of Geonetics, a company that provides GIS support to a number of major projects, including Boston’s Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel project. 

I have never known anyone so talented and accomplished yet so completely lacking in pretension. There was virtually nothing John couldn’t do and do well. He loved music, sailing and running, and he was adept at nearly every type of home improvement project. He reveled in finding out how things worked. I, who will never be mistaken for a handyman, was a great beneficiary of his technical know-how. Whenever John would visit, if he found anything around my house that wasn’t working properly, he would insist on our making a trip to the local hardware store to pick up whatever he needed to fix whatever needed fixing on the spot. He not only talked me through my first computer purchase, but he gave up part of his Labor Day weekend one summer to come down and install the computer and a new phone line for me after it arrived.

In our more than 25 years of friendship, we spent hours discussing nearly every topic under the sun, but we seldom, if ever, had a deep philosophical discussion about religion. In looking back on John’s life, however, I am struck by how deeply he lived his faith through his unselfish love of others. He was that rare individual in this age of cynicism who still trusted in the fundamental goodness of people and who would do anything he could to help a friend or stranger in need. The tragedy of John’s untimely death reminds us all that we must live each moment to the fullest. Perhaps the only comforting thought in dealing with this incomprehensible loss is the fact that John lived his life that way. As busy as he was, he never put off doing the important things in life. Although we were all deprived of a chance to say our goodbyes, he showed his family and friends in countless ways, spoken and unspoken, how much he cared.

John and Marcia have two children, Carl and Anna, aged 11 and 7. He is also survived by his mother, Marguerite Sailor; his sister, Nancy Phillips; and his brother, Richard Sailor ’73. A John Karl Sailor Scholarship Fund has been established at Wayland High School, which Carl and Anna will one day attend. In addition, a tree from the Emily Dickinson Homestead has been transplanted in John’s memory near the entrance to the Arms Music Building, where John sang in the glee club and played the cello. At our 25th reunion, we can gather at this spot, which meant so much to John, and raise a glass in honor of our friend and classmate.

Brian McLaughlin ’78