John Michael Williamson
1956 - 2021
John Michael Williamson 1956 - 2021
Cazadero, CA—John M. Williamson died unexpectedly on May 13th in his Cazadero, CA home. He was 64 years old.
John was born in Chicago, IL on Oct. 1st, 1956. He was the fourth of five sons born to Dr. Arthur and Marilyn (Shaffner) Williamson of Lincoln, Illinois.
John had an uncommonly high zest for life which included a deep love for live music, great food, good wine, vegetable gardening, and traveling the world accompanied by close friends. His breadth of knowledge on a wide range of topics and issues always made John an interesting conversationalist.
John spent his formative years in Lincoln, IL where he attended Washington-Monroe Grade School, Lincoln Jr High, and Lincoln Community High ('71-75). He excelled in athletics and was a regional winner of Punt, Pass, and Kick, played point guard on his Jr High team that won the Illinois State Basketball Championship, and lettered in basketball and tennis during High School. For 2 summers John joined a small carnival that traveled to various county and Illinois State fairs. He was a barker running 2 different games, SpaceBall and the Rope Ladder. Not only would he call out to the crowds to generate interest, he would demonstrate each game making it seem easy. Later in a business environment, he would apply these organizational skills in setting up conferences which he ran with flair. One colleague recently commented, "He had a little P.T. Barnum in him!" Also, during his High School years John's love of live music began. He and his friends traveled for hours to music concerts in Chicago or St Louis. Favorite concerts included Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Yes, Dave Mason, Jeff Beck and The Who just to name a few. Later, once established in the San Francisco Bay Area, John would become a Committee Member of Freight and Salvage, a non-profit community arts organization in Berkley, CA dedicated to promoting public awareness/understanding of traditional music.
He attended Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL and graduated in 1978 with an accounting/economics/business degree. John was part of a legacy family at Illinois College. Family alums included both parents, Arthur ('51) and Marilyn Shaffner Williamson ('52), brother Jeffrey Williamson ('75), aunt Carol Shaffner Robson ('58), and cousins Debra Williamson Grisham ('79), Kristen Williamson Bruce ('98) along with a brother and several cousins who attended. While at IC, John was deeply involved in Pi Pi Rho literary society, and lettered in basketball and tennis. John would later (2013) join the Illinois College Board of Trustees. A favorite sidebar of John's during quarterly Trustee meeting visits to Jacksonville was to meet with students, sometimes placing him in the front of a classroom as a guest speaker.
Upon his graduating from IC he was hired by the accounting firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell in Peoria, Il. When that office was restructured, John traveled around the US, often by train and bicycle, to evaluate where he would want to relocate. Several stops included Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX, and San Francisco. SF won out as John was intrigued by the cultural differences of the West Coast as well as its hotbed of live music. He moved there in 1982 and was hired by the accounting firm Harb, Levy, Weiland. After hours, John would attend Golden Gate University where he completed his Masters in Taxation (1990). He was eventually promoted to Managing Partner and helped grow the firm into a national powerhouse within the Securities and Hedge Fund service field. In 2011, the New York accounting firm of EisnerAmper merged with Harb, Levy, Wieland and left John as Partner in Charge of the San Francisco office until his death. In part, it may have been John's experience as a point guard in basketball which helped him to unselfishly orchestrate the involvement and success of those who worked with him. He had superb technical skills, an intense sense of loyalty, a big heart, and a sense of humor, all of which endeared him to his colleagues.
John's love for travel began in earnest while attending Illinois College as he was part of a student group led by Dean Eldred, spending several weeks in London. Later, travel destinations would include France, Spain, Italy, Greece, numerous Mediterranean Isles such as Corsica, Crete and Sardinia, Croatia and India. John had a genuine curiosity of local customs and cultures which would include local cuisine. On one stop in Santorini, Greece, John fell in love with both the food and the atmosphere at a restaurant named Santorini Mou, run by Mihalis Hionas. On a return trip, John convinced Mihalis to allow him to work for several weeks in the restaurant's kitchen (without pay) so he could learn how to cook and prepare some of the restaurant's signature dishes. Later, Mihalis would visit John in San Francisco.
John had a love for wine (especially Pinot Noir) and he conveniently lived in an area that produced some of the the best vintages. He became friends with many of the area vintners (some were clients) and would be added to their special lists for distribution of their magnums. Opening and sharing the contents of these magnums would become a restaurant focal point when close friends would gather and celebrate special events, such as the Big Ten Tournament, at places like St. Elmo's in Indianapolis, IN and Gibson's in Chicago, IL. Ceremonial corking and serving from these magnums was always a crowd pleasing spectacle.
During this past year John worked remotely from his home in Cazedero, CA. There, in between zoom calls, he would work on his vegetable garden. Among other things, he grew strawberries, onions, apricots, tomatoes and garlic. Excited about how his crop was coming along, John would FaceTime friends and show a ripe strawberry, cherry tomato or declare when his garlic would be ready for harvest. His cherry tomatoes were so tasty that a San Francisco chef asked him if he could supply the restaurant with his tomatoes. He was heard to comment, "Now I understand why Dad spent so much time in his garden."
Lastly and above all was John's love and devotion to his 2 children, Emily and Theo. Each conversation would begin with John's enthusiasm for something they had accomplished, such as a gripping play performance by Emily or a game-winning lacrosse score by Theo. John was proud of them and had anticipated even more quality time with them during his retirement.
John will be greatly missed by his family, his friends, and his co-workers who are left to cherish the memory of the life John brought to every party.
John is survived by his children, Emily and Theo of Missoula, MT and their mother Donna Williamson of Piedmont, CA and her daughter Jillington Darlington and her son Taylor of San Diego, CA. Also surviving are John's four brothers, Dr. David Williamson, Saline, MI, Bruce Williamson (Cathy), Cape Carteret, NC, Dr. Jeffrey Williamson (Jane), Peoria, IL, and Douglas Williamson (Michelle), Kalispell, MT. John was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Arthur (2008) and Marilyn (2020) of Lincoln, IL.
Memorial services will be announced at a later date. Memorial gifts can be made in John's name to:
IC Fund
c/o Illinois College
1101 West College
Jacksonville, Illinois
Freight and Salvage
2020 Addison Street
Berkley, CA. 97404
Published by The Lincoln Courier from Jun. 9 to Jun. 11, 2021.
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23 Entries
carl cox
July 11, 2021
Damnit John... My experience with this thing called life increasingly filled with questions, that are never answered..such as: Why did I not reach to you just to say "hey" often as your name flashed through my mind... How did you get so freakin smart? Where did you get that unforgettable smile? How did you know that by asking Donna for her hand in marriage, would result in the beautiful family you helped to protect and create..? Why couldn´t you hang around a little longer ?? ..and many more... My sincere condolences go out to the family that grieves your those that loved/accepted you for your impeccable taste, passion, commitment to family, work, intelligence, wit, love of music, and being the unique man we were all privileged to know... Thank you , from my family to yours.. Carl
Carl E Cox
July 10, 2021
I met John at Illinois College and spent two years sharing his journey through life. My wife and I visited John in Peoria a few years after college but other than a few college reunions we did not keep in touch. Nevertheless, I have always counted John as a friend and consider anyone who enjoyed John’s energy, wit, and humor throughout his life the benefactors of his unique love! I will miss you.
June 13, 2021
I send my condolences to the Williamson family. I was fortunate to know John from a very early age. I moved into the “Home Ave” neighborhood in 4th grade. John was Instrumental in organizing the neighborhood kids for playing constant sports. If we weren’t playing basketball, football , baseball , ditch (all usually initiated and organized by John) , we were on our bikes headed for Lincoln Lakes. I can also thank John for getting us to the tennis courts and he took me to the Rec and had me sign up for lessons with Coach Alberts. I will always look back and smile about those carefree times and remember the joy he brought to us and I’m sure that quality stayed with him on his adult life.

Roger Shockey
June 12, 2021
I first met John in 7th grade at Lincoln Junior High School. He later became one of my five best friends. We shared many great times back in the day ... concerts (Stones, Zeppelin, Bowie, etc.), shenanigans in Lincoln, and road trips to Texas and the Florida Keys. The best was a trip to Jamaica in 1975 which included scuba diving and sailing. John had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, was a bon vivant, art and music aficionado, and a loyal friend. I, like everyone who knew John, will greatly miss him.
Jim Aldendifer, Plano TX
June 12, 2021
As John’s high school US History teacher, I could always count on John to know current topics in the news but also have a sharp analytic mind and a willingness to think and speak for himself on many issues throughout our history. His love for live music and sporting events was part of his wonderful personality and he demonstrated that to me as he talked me into going with him, the school principal, and several of his friends to my first (and only) professional wrestling match. It was a great evening and just one my positive memories of John and teaching at Lincoln Community High School. A wonderful young man that I will never forget.
Stephen Sauer
June 10, 2021
I met John when he lived in Peoria, IL in the early 80's while working at Peat, Marwick & Mitchell. He lived with me for a year, and what a year it was! John taught me how to cook, he taught me how to appreciate different music and we traveled to concerts, one especially memorable concert was the Stones in 1983 in St Louis. John will be missed on this earth, and I was lucky to have called him my friend.
Jack Bloom
June 10, 2021
Hiren Modi
June 9, 2021
I was so saddened to hear of John’s passing. I have known him since we worked together at Peat Marwick Mitchell in Peoria in the late 1970’s. We both moved to the Bay Area in the early 80’s and were roommates for a while before he married Donna. He was always a good friend and fellow “rocker” who had a quick wit and generous disposition. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. RIP John!
Robert Kim Pettygrove
June 4, 2021
Kim Pettygrove
June 4, 2021
I met John at a Dave Mason concert. I found him to be warm, engaging, and had a curious and brilliant mind. My deepest condolences to his friends and family. The world is a duller place without his bright light.
Nancy Donati
June 2, 2021
So sorry for your loss. I went to high school with John!
Mary Edwards Hardman
May 31, 2021
Jim Aldendifer
May 31, 2021
I first met John in 7th grade, Lincoln Junior High School. He was one of my five best friends. We shared many great times back in the day ... concerts (Stones, Zeppelin, Bowie, etc.), shenanigans in Lincoln, and road trips to Texas and the Florida Keys. The best was a trip to Jamaica in 1975 which included scuba diving and sailing. John had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, was a bon vivant, art and music aficionado, and a loyal friend. I, like everyone who knew John, will greatly miss him.
Jim Aldendifer
May 30, 2021
I met John through the French Class, I was his teacher since August 2020. He would always tell me about his love for nature, his garden, feta cheese, wine and cooking. Not long ago, he told me that his son had come home to visit. During this time, he said they spent a lot of time gardening together and he was very happy about it. One of the most fond memories I have of him.
He was always punctual, smiling and would give me two thumbs up at the end of our classes.
May 29, 2021
We, at The French Class, met John in January 2019 when he came to our school to learn French. He had been taking classes with us since then. He was one of these perfect students who knew exactly his learning style and pace, he always had a smile and a great sense of humor. We are deeply saddened and our thoughts are with his loved ones.
Dominique Brémond
May 29, 2021
Peter Granoff
May 29, 2021
Met John at his office a few times while running a Hedge Fund. Great easy going guy and very smart. Shockingly sad to hear. Condolences to the family.
Steve Chansin
May 27, 2021
Kristen Ward
May 27, 2021
Joanne, Victor and Stephanie
May 27, 2021
Condolences and prayers to the Williamson brothers. RIP John.
Terri Cichon
May 27, 2021
I worked with John on the board of the Freight & Salvage music house in Berkeley. He was smart, generous and passionate. We will miss him greatly. My condolences to his family and friends. This is terribly sad news.
John V Croizat
May 27, 2021
My sincere condolences to his family and To all the Brothers Williamson .I had only known John briefly many years ago but, he had great energy and
an excellent sense of humor .May Heaven Rest Him Now .
J.P Dougherty
May 26, 2021
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