John Williams ’69, Photoghrapher, Traveler, Volunteer

John Steven Williams spent the first nine years of his life growing up in Mansfield, Ohio. He was a typical kid, except he carried around a camera. One of his favorite things to do was to assemble his green Army men or cars and set up scenes for his action photography.

John moved to Columbus with his family in 1960. He grew up on the west side, first attending Hilltonia Junior High followed by West High School. He became a member of the Hi-Y, perhaps, because its purpose was “to create, maintain, and extend through the home, school, and community high standards of Christian character”. John lived his life with Wisdom, Honesty, and Sincerity – WHS. During these years he was active in Boy Scouts of America and activities at Hogue Memorial Presbyterian Church. After graduating from West in 1969, he attended The Ohio State University and studied journalism. He became a freelance photographer and worked for one of the local community newspapers. Everywhere he went, he made friends and connections. He was often hired as a photographer to do weddings, take portraits, and shoot family pictures. During this time, he was busy raising three sons.

In 1994, a member of Governor George Voinovich’s staff approached John to see if would like to work as the staff photographer to help document the Governor’s Administration. John was both excited and honored to accept the position. John spent almost eight years “shooting George”, as he called it. He also worked with other State Government Departments, including: Travel and Tourism, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. He traveled throughout Ohio with Governor Voinovich visiting the State Fair, the groundbreaking and the grand opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as other events. He met Heads of State, politicians, rock stars, as well as the diverse residents of Ohio. John was always humble, treating everyone with dignity and respect. He could be seen cracking jokes with travel writers or eating Buckeyes with Bob Dole. He made all his subjects feel comfortable, while remaining in the background and getting the best shots, making everyone and everything look their best. When his time with the governor ended, he entered private life with many friendships, connections, and great stories that carried him into the next chapter of his life.

John continued photographing many events, both corporate and private. He was rarely seen without a camera. However, his true love was always nature photography. He enjoyed the serenity of nature and finding the little things, the right light, and the pieces of nature that most people missed. Photography was John’s heart and soul. It was the one thing that brought him pleasure and peace.

John’s other passion was motorcycles. For twenty years, he traveled with his wife beside him (on her own motorcycle) and a camera in his saddlebag, exploring new places and people. He visited over thirty states and Canada. Everywhere he went he found new friends, while capturing the beautiful scenes around him.

When John learned there was a group of his West friends who met monthly for lunch, he knew he had to attend. He was reunited with so many friends from years gone by. With a camera in one hand and his easy-going wit in the other, he took pictures of anyone who attended. His joy was sharing these photos with all his classmates. In 2019, John was able to attend his 50th Class Reunion. With his camera by his side, John was able to capture the many magical memories of the evening and felt great joy in sharing them with his beloved classmates.

John kept his illness private. His Multiple Myeloma got the best of him and he succumbed to this cancer on April 20, 2020. His wife Kathie and his sons Adam, Erik, and Brian survive John. Also surviving, are his special kids (stepchildren) Erin and Kyle as well as six grandchildren and a loving mother, Erma Williams.

Myra D. Clark-Foster, Class of 1969, nominated John.