John Theodore Vanderveen (1935 - 2019)

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  • "My condolences."
    - Peggy Bohm
  • "You had a great dad. I, too, had polio affecting my right..."
    - Marcie Weiler
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John Theodore Vanderveen, 83, passed away on the morning of January 16, 2019, having never fulfilled one of his son's lifelong dreams of watching his incredibly intelligent father crush any and all opponents on the game show Jeopardy. Vanderveen's ability to remember a myriad of facts - some significant, some not - will forever remain legendary in Vanderveen family lore.

Born on July 25, 1935, in Logansport, Indiana, to parents Theodore John Vanderveen and Martha Jean (Seybold), John T. Vanderveen was an only child who quickly developed a reputation as a student of life if not necessarily a student of cleanliness. A byproduct of the Great Depression, he often kept his refrigerator stocked to the brim with outdated foodstuffs better suited to the interior of a museum than an actual modern-day appliance.

A survivor of Polio when he was 10, Vanderveen never let the virus' impact on his right leg keep him from one of his first loves. Close to a scratch golfer at one point, he continued playing a mean round of golf well into his seventies.

Vanderveen, a lifelong conservative and walking definition of the word dissonance, received a bachelors and masters from the notoriously liberal University of California at Berkeley (go Bears!). From there, he worked as a Foreign Service Officer in such places as Managua, Nicaragua, and Milan, Italy. In Managua, he once lived next door to baseball great Johnny Pesky. He also told a story of answering a phone one day only to discover LBJ shouting at him from the other end.

Fluent in Spanish and Italian, Vanderveen in his latter years would often confuse poor waiters and waitresses in Spanish and Italian restaurants by assuming they too were fluent in the languages of their respective dining establishments.

In 1973, he and his wife at the time, Mary Ann Vanderveen, moved to Denver with their son Theodore John (notice a pattern?) after an offer from Johns-Manville. That same year, the family welcomed a pair of twins Christopher Bolan and Kevin Robert. In 1983, John Vanderveen founded VSA International Corporation which led him to places like New Mexico and Arizona where he worked with the Navajos.

Never afraid to tell someone what was on his mind, John Vanderveen left his three sons with an indelible understanding of the depths of sarcasm and wit. He loved the Oakland Raiders; hated the Los Angeles Raiders and assumed the Las Vegas Raiders to be a sign of an upcoming apocalypse.

He is survived by his sons Ted (49), Chris (45) and Kevin (45); his daughters-in-law Hilary, Kimberly and Susan, his partner Gayle Wunder; and his grandchildren Ann Marie (14), Colin (11), Sarah (6), Lila (8), Hollin (12), and his namesake Johnny Theodore (9). There will be a wake held at Ted Vanderveen's house in Centennial at a date to be determined.

If you'd like to honor John Vanderveen, read a book, study business and/or history, understand random trivia better than anyone else, consider a donation to the fine folks at Denver Hospice, and rid your refrigerator of random food items that appear to be long past their proverbial prime.

And, maybe, consider telling Alex Trebek he missed out on seeing one of the greatest Jeopardy champions of all time. Dad, we miss you and we love you!
Published in Colorado Community Newspapers from Feb. 1 to Feb. 28, 2019
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