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JOHN LEWIS RUNYON

Obituary
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JOHN LEWIS RUNYON - MIDDLEBURY - John Lewis Runyon died Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in Porter Hospital in Middlebury, following a short and aggressive bout with recurrent melanoma. He was born Oct. 31, 1930, in Glen Ridge, N.J., the son of Mefford Ross Runyon and Janet Benson, both of New Jersey. Raised on Shippan Point in Stamford and later Darien, Conn., he grew up outdoors and on the water. After summers in his teens on the H Lazy B ranch in Ennis, Mont., where he rode horses and fly fished, ranch hands gave him a new name, Jack, which he was known by the rest of his life. He graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in 1949, and Dartmouth College in 1953, where he was a brother of the Sigma Chi fraternity. While there, he earned a second nickname, Boomer, which also stuck, after a popular record he played to the hilarity of his classmates, the Great Crepidation Contest of 1946. In 1952, Runyon worked as a cabin boy at York's Log Village in Rangeley, Maine, a lakeside retreat he had visited with his parents for several years. That summer he fell in love with a waitress, Phebe Dow, a Colby College co-ed from Presque Isle, Maine. They married on Feb. 20, 1954, in the chapel at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., which he attended during World War II when his father served as a Commodore of the United States Navy in Washington, DC. After college, Runyon enlisted with the United States Marine Corps, did basic training and led advanced warfare instruction at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. He loved the esprit de corps of being a Marine. Daughter, Anne, was born on Camp Lejeune in November 1954. From there, the Runyons moved to Westport, Conn., had two more children, then to West Grove, Pa., and then back to Westport, where he and Phebe grew their brood to five children. He worked the first half of his career with mainframe computers doing data processing for the Columbia Broadcasting System, Sikorsky Aircraft and Emery Air Freight. The Westport years are best remembered for summers sailing and vacationing with family and friends in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine, and for winters at pre-dawn ice rinks and cheering on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Runyon household and property were a menagerie of dogs and cats, goats, chickens, ducks, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs, and a wide assortment of snakes, lizards and tortoises. At one point, the Runyon house qualified as a local school field trip. A productive vegetable and rose garden were also staples. The love of the land and animals led to the Runyon's flight to Vermont in 1973, in the midst of the Watergate hearings. Once there, Runyon put away his suits and ties and worked a variety of jobs, including bus driver and milkman, before he joined the United States Postal Service, from which he retired in 1995. His expertise with computers coincided with his love of family history and genealogy, which was triggered after finding a box of Runyon letters from the Civil War. Runyon was a descendent of Vincent Roignon, the French Huguenot who settled in Piscataway, Jersey in 1665. He leaves his family and Runyons everywhere with a prodigious database of several thousand Runyons. His years in Middlebury included a long career as an actor with the Middlebury Community Players. His role as Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, in which his two youngest children performed as paupers, earned him a favorite review from friend and homemaker Joan Anderson: "I don't care what you say." In 2002, he acted in the independent film Pursuing Happiness. He was also a devoted member of the Salisbury Congregational Church, as well as the Lions Club, Rotary International and Saint Andrews Society. Runyon is survived by his wife, Phebe of Middlebury; daughter, Anne of Brandon; son, Will of Katonah, N.Y.; son, Jim of Benicia, Calif.; daughter, Phebe of Suwanee, Ga.; and 10 grandchildren, many of whom are named after Runyon ancestors. He was predeceased by son, John in 2002. Services will be held at a later date and burial will follow in the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery in Middlebury. Arrangements are under the direction of Sanderson-Ducharme Funeral Home. Donations can be made to the , where his father worked as executive vice president in the 1960s.

Published in The Burlington Free Press on Aug. 22, 2013
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