John Michael Williams, of Menomonie, WI, passed on in his 85th year of life on July 27, 2020 at home lovingly cared for by his wife, Jane, a circle of dear friends, and hospice nurses. He was born in Detroit, Michigan to Martha (Palms) and William B. Williams, the third of four boys. John grew up in Bloomfield Hills lovingly raised by his mother and grandmother. He attended St. Johns Seminary in Detroit and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1961. He served as a parish priest, seminary teacher, and college chaplain before deciding to leave the active ministry. Scholarly learning was in his DNA. John attended Ohio State University and then in completed his Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University. He began his teaching career at UW-Stout in 1976 as a professor in Human Development and Family Studies and as a supervisor in the graduate Marriage and Family Therapy Program.
John loved teaching and was dedicated to his students, his colleagues, and the university community. He was often heard singing to his students in class and many a Christmas Eve was spent writing long comments on students’ term papers. He was an accomplished researcher who left no stone unturned. John loved spending time in libraries and at the National Archives researching JFK papers as well as conducting interviews around the country for his research that he generously shared with others. Anyone who knew John knew he loved everything about books---having them, reading them, and making notes in the margins. He was an avid reader and enjoyed his weekly Friday book club lunches and discussions with three good friends.
John was a deeply spiritual person of faith and is the embodiment of “be still and know that I am God”. He attended yearly spiritual retreats for over 30 years. He continued his ministry by teaching in the diocesan diaconate program, presenting programs on Vatican II, mentoring young people in confirmation, leading a Scripture Study group, and providing spiritual direction. He hoped he would be alive to see a married priesthood and the ordination of women.
He was passionate about social justice. John was a wise, kind, generous, and compassionate person who always looked for the good in everyone and everything, but would also speak truth to power when addressing injustices in our midst. He was an amazing listener, fully present for every conversation, person, and relationship.
In 1993 he met the love of his life, Jane, thanks to the persistence of a dear mutual friend, Patricia. They married in 1994 and spent the next 26 years making beautiful memories both at their home on the lake that he loved and in their many travels around the country and world.
John is survived by his wife, Jane Redig Williams, brother William (Mary Anne) Williams, sisters in law Maria Williams, Marilee Williams, and many nieces and nephews. He is further survived by his family in-laws by marriage: Theresa and Don Yaeger, Sr. Ann Redig, Mari and Pat Gannon, Ardi and Bob Johnson, Robert and Kathy Redig, Joan Redig and Wayne Purtzer, and many nieces and nephews as well as many friends here and away. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers, Peter Williams and James Williams
Many thanks to Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice, Dr. Thirumalai and Dr. Basu for their devoted care. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a private service was held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Menomonie with Fr. Tom Krieg and Fr. John Mano officiating. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date when we can safely celebrate this amazing man’s fully lived life.
Memorials can be directed to Stepping Stones, Oxfam International, Union of Concerned Scientists, or St. Joseph’s Parish.