John R. Williams, 83, died at home in El Cajon, California, on January 23, 2021, with his wife Hallie at his side.
John was born in February 1937 in Marion, the eldest son of John and Mabel (Conyers) Williams.
He was admitted to the United States Naval Academy in 1956, excelling academically and in athletics, including four years of Navy football as an end and a tackle.
After the academy, he became a Naval Aviator and helicopter pilot, having many adventures and travels on active duty, and achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He married Judith Thatch of Marion after he graduated from the naval academy.
John piloted a helicopter from USS Kearsarge assigned to sea-rescue duties off the coast of Vietnam in June of 1969, following an accidental collision between Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and U.S. destroyer USS Frank E. Evans. The Evans was cut clean in half, 199 of her 273 crew surviving, rescued by members of the Melbourne’s crew and search and rescue teams from nearby ships like Kearsarge.
After leaving the Navy in 1970, he earned a doctorate degree in educational administration from Kansas State University.
He married Hallie Holcomb Dec. 1, 1974, in Hugoton, Kansas.
He, Hallie, and son, Zachary then moved to San Diego, California in 1977, where John became the lead project developer and proposal writer at San Diego State University Research Foundation.
There, he traveled worldwide to collaborate with representatives from other educational institutions and governments, resulting in numerous large contracts and grants that ultimately improved many lives through scientific, agricultural, health, and education opportunities locally, nationally, and internationally.
John enjoyed spending time with his family in the mountains and deserts of San Diego County, leading trips for the local chapter of the Sierra Club.
He was always equipped to offer new insights into the historical and natural aspects of southern California’s terrain, having the opportunity to combine his considerable appetite for reading with his love for the outdoors.
He is survived by his wife; sons Zachary, Bradley, and Bryan; seven grandchildren; and brother Maury.
His daughter, Janice Smith, died in July 2020.
John always embraced the positive aspects of life, had a wonderful sense of humor, and believed that tomorrow can always be a better day. He was greatly loved by his family and those who knew him. He will be forever missed.