John Williams

The John Williams Memorial Fund honors the memory of John Williams by supporting the APBP mentorship program. John took such personal and professional pleasure in mentoring others and watching them succeed. He was very generous with his time and talent. Developing relationships were important to John and enriched his mentoring experiences. The opportunity to meet face-to-face made that experience more effective and satisfying both for him and those with whom he had a learning relationship. The John Williams fund is used annually as determined by the Membership Committee to provide stipends for mentees/mentors to travel to meet face to face.

Click here to donate to the John Williams Memorial Fund.

John's obituary is reprinted here:

Long time Northside Missoula resident, John Williams, 65, died on July 20, 2016 at peace and with much grace as his wife gently held him. Despite living through years of the compounding challenges of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, he remained kind, generous, funny and loving. Now, he is free.

The only child of Jim and Dorothy Williams, John grew up in Sacramento, CA. This precocious boy frequently prompted his mother to exclaim, “Honestly, John!” Once she returned to find he had swapped the engine in the family station wagon for one so much larger that he had cut a hole out of her hood just to close it. 

After initially not liking one another, John and Linda Tracy became best friends while collaborating on the development of a bicycle curriculum. They later fell in love, and married under the care of the Missoula Friends (Quaker) Meeting in 1990.  Thus began a beautiful and caring partnership as a family as well as professional colleagues.

With a degree in architecture from Cal Poly, John completed all but his dissertation for a Master of Urban Planning degree at the University of Waterloo. He then became one of the very early pioneers in the bicycle and pedestrian planning, and education field. 

John was an effective and generous teacher. With his infectious dry wit and engaging style, he mentored and inspired scores of planners and engineers, among others, around the world. He used his body of photographs to illustrate “good, bad and ugly” bicycle and pedestrian treatments at countless workshops across the country sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, and many state and local government agencies and advocacy groups.  In 2004 his peers awarded him a Lifetime Achievement award from the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Because of John’s humility and grace many do not fully know of his early and continued contributions to the field. As one colleague recently honored him, “All of us at companies like Toole Design and Alta Planning stand on your shoulders.” 

John Williams having a fun day outdoors.

Headshot of John Williams

In 1972 as the 22-year old self-titled Bike Czar for the City of San Luis Obispo, CA, John wrote and illustrated the City’s award-winning bike plan¬, one of the first in the country. He also wrote and published a newsletter called Cyclelateral Thinking adapting Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking approach to solving problems. Later John began editing and publishing a professional journal called Bicycle Forum, thus inspiring a whole new generation of bicycle and pedestrian specialists. He edited others’ articles and wrote others himself, drew illustrations and technical drawings, took photographs, and laid out each issue for nearly 20 years. 

In 1980, John became Missoula’s first full-time Bicycle Coordinator. He led the charge to save the Van Buren Street Bridge and transform it into a key connector for people walking and riding bikes to and from the University of Montana. By conducting the first count of people walking and bicycling in Missoula, John was able to demonstrate to County Commissioners that spending $119,000 to convert the bridge to serve 2,000 people walking and biking a day was a better investment than spending $2 million to reconstruct it to serve 200 people in cars a day. John also ran one of the first bicycle helmet promotion campaigns in the US, and designed and installed what has become one of the most popular bicycle parking racks in the country. He and his team created the first bike map of Missoula and award-winning maps for other communities. 

As Adventure Cycling Association’s Advocacy Director he co-authored The Basics of Bicycling curriculum to teach children how to ride safely. John also worked for the National Center for Bicycling and Walking where he created, and for many years, edited CenterLines, an online newsletter. Throughout his career, John created a wide variety of plans and other materials. His Bicycle Safety What Every Parent Should Know booklet and his Lou and His Friends Have Something Important to Tell You helmet brochure, among others, were distributed to millions of people throughout the country.

John was an amazing harmonica player and had an extensive and eclectic music collection. His pen-and-ink drawings and other illustrations enlivened many of his publications. He toured Ireland, The Netherlands and France by bike and loved to tell stories—some true, many heavily embellished with his unique sense of humor and perspective on life.

John truly loved Downtown Missoula. He made many friends and felt at home at Break Espresso, Fact & Fiction, Office City, Kent Brothers, the Missoula Federal Credit Union, the post office, and Worden’s. He keenly missed The Bon, Howard Gavin’s, and Char’s pies at the old Uptown Café. 

For many years, steadfast friends Bob Perrier and Poody McLaughlin brought John to Break Espresso for coffee every Thursday morning. There he visited and shared jokes with just about everyone: the baristas, bakers, other patrons, and the person who delivered each week’s edition of The Independent. On Mondays, John accompanied a dear friend Bill Wiles on all his downtown errands. John had such wide-ranging reading tastes and was one of Fact & Fiction’s biggest fans. While she really shouldn’t have, his friend Barbara Theroux also made certain he had every Captain Underpants and Walter the Farting Dog book as soon as it was published.   

In the 5 years he delivered Meals on Wheels throughout Missoula County, it was never clear who enjoyed it more: John or those with whom he joked as he gave them their meals. On the day after Christmas, John would don his Santa hat to complement his snowy white beard. Trademark twinkle in his eye, he would inquire on each person’s doorstep, “Have you been good?” It always cracked them both up.

Both of John’s parents died long ago, and more recently he mourned the deaths of dear friends Marian Wong and Bill Wiles. Colleagues, and friends both old and new will continue to carry his memory, especially Bob Perrier, Poody McLauglin, Roger DiBrito, Bill Wilkinson, Gary MacFadden, Jim Wenderoth, and Jaimi White; as well his chosen family Marie Wicks, Marlene Wiles, Harriet Mullaney, Mary Meletiou, Anne Guion, and his wife, Linda Tracy, whom he so deeply cherished. 
We are especially grateful to the compassionate and capable staffs at Rosetta Assisted Living and Hospice of Missoula. In professionally caring for John they also laughed, sang and danced with him, making certain he lived well until he died, and that Linda too felt embraced by their support.