SCARBOROUGH, Maine - John Hamilton Rice, 94, of Scarborough, Maine, formerly of Pittsfield, Mass., died Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, after a brief illness.
He was born on April 16, 1919, in Pittsfield, Mass., the elder son of William Thompson Rice, a textile executive, and Agnes Van Santvoord Rice, a homemaker.
John attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., and graduated from Williams College in 1941. He received a Master's in Business Administration from Harvard University in 1943. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II.
Mr. Rice worked for four years as a sales executive for Montgomery Ward in Chicago before returning to Pittsfield to join the A.H. Rice Company, manufacturers of silk sewing thread founded in 1878 by his great-grandfather, William B. Rice. As President, John Rice oversaw plant additions in 1955 and 1965, as well as the development of silk thread for parachute material and nylon filament for stockings and other materials to replace pure silk threads no longer available from Japan. The family sold the business in 1968 to Gerli & Company, but Mr. Rice continued on as an advisor until his retirement in 1988.
Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Mr. Rice served the city of Pittsfield. He was elected to the City Council for several terms and was also chair of the Planning Board. He oversaw citywide initiatives to better race relations and advocated for the end of the Vietnam war and the legalization of marijuana.
He worked for 30 years as a Dale Carnegie instructor and also wrote a weekly column about language and culture for the Berkshire Evening Eagle. He took up classical piano in midlife and gave concerts at Berkshire County nursing homes. He joked that the residents were a perfect audience because they couldn't hear all his wrong notes.
He was a director of two Massachusetts mutual insurance companies and served on the boards of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Red Cross, United Way, the Lenox Club and the Tuesday Evening Club. "He lived a big life in Berkshire County," observed George Wislocki, who worked with Mr. Rice on the Berkshire Natural Resources Council board.
Mr. Rice skied, played tennis and sculled. He and his son-in-law, Pete Lauridsen, took many heli-skiing trips together in British Columbia. At 70, Mr. Rice received a special powder suit for skiing one million vertical feet.
In 2003, he and his longtime companion, Janet Pinkham, moved to Piper Shores, a retirement community in southern Maine.
He is survived by Janet Pinkham; a son, Michael Barr of Powhatan, Va. and his wife, Carroll; and two daughters, Heidi Rice Lauridsen of New London and Rebecca Rice of Hadley, Mass. He leaves five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Michael Barr, of Larchmont, N.Y., Angus Barr of Huntersville, N.C., Molly Thompson Lauridsen, of Stowe, Vt., Sarah Hamilton Lauridsen of Bridgewater Corners, Vt., Oliver Van Santvoord Smith of Richmond, Ind. and Eloise Barr of Larchmont, N.Y.
He was pre-deceased by his brother, Peter Van Santvoord Rice, who died in 2012.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Berkshire Natural Resources Council, 20 Bank Row, Pittsfield, MA 01201.
A celebration of Mr. Rice's life will be held in June 2014 at the Onota Lake camp in Pittsfield, which Mr. Rice gifted to the BNRC in 1994.
To sign an online guestbook, please visit chadwickfuneralservice.com.
Published in The Concord Monitor on Nov. 5, 2013