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:
c/o Illinois College
1101 West College
Freight and Salvage
2020 Addison Street
Berkley, CA. 97404 www.thefreight.org/
Published by The Lincoln Courier from Jun. 9 to Jun. 11, 2021.