John Wightman ’58

29 August 2017

Class: 1958

Major: Government

Residence: Sheffield, MA

Deceased: August 24, 2017

Alumni survivors: Mrs. Joan C. Haggard ’54 (Sibling), Benjamin A. Wightman ’21 (Grandchild)

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    Class of 1958 60th Reunion Committee


    John Wightman passed away at home August 24, 2017 after along and spirited fight with cancer.

    John was born in 1936 in Greeley, Colorado. He graduated from Carleton College, then was called to the ministry and studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He interned at Tokyo Union Church in Japan. He was ordained in 1962 and became assistant pastor at Rock Spring Church in Arlington, Virginia. Here he joined the struggle for civil rights, helping to end segregation in all aspects of life -schools, movie theaters, buses, hospitals, housing. He was particularly successful in helping people obtain voting rights. He also formed the first desegregated Vacation Bible School in the state.

    Throughout his ministry, John was committed to the causes of social justice for all marginalized people, whether over issues of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, or preference. He chaired the committee that declared Old Parish Church an Open and Affirming church for LGBTQ people. He was commended by the Concerned African American Parents and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Society of Westfield, NJ. But he went gently into these battles, meeting people where they were, and slowly building a consensus for a just direction. He modeled in his life the compassion he saw in the Gospel.

    After Rock Spring, John was called to Saint Paul's Church in Nutley, NJ. After ten years, he became Associate Conference Minister in the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ, traveling extensively around the state to support churches in trouble. He missed, however, having a parish of his own, and so came to First Congregational in Westfield, NJ, where he remained until he retired to Sheffield, MA in 1998. There he became an active member at Old Parish Church. He also served several small-area churches as interim pastor, including a number of years at Second Church of Pittsfield, MA.

    John had an abiding love for the natural world, which he instilled in all his children, who are passing it down to their children. He served as chair of the Sheffield Land Trust Board of Directors. He thrived on music, singing with Berkshire Bach, Crescendo, and the church choir. He also loved bicycling and winning at cribbage.

    John is survived by his beloved wife Marilyn and three adored children: Bruce (Tamara Davis) of Lafayette Hill, PA, Brian (Carrie Rouillard) of Barre, VT; and Catherine (Gregg Doney) of Clancy, MT. He is also survived by four beautiful grandchildren: Benjamin and Allison Wightman, Isabelle Wightman, and Haylee Doney, by his sister, Joan Haggard of Livonia, MI and her family, and his sisters-in- law: Margaret Strahl and Dorothy Strahl.

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