John C. Colson
John Calvin Colson, Ph.D., of Rifle, died July 13, 2007, at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs from complications following surgery. He was 80 years old.Born on Dec. 9, 1926, in Kingman, Ind., to Ernest Jones Colson and Elizabeth Kyte Colson, Colson grew up in and around South Bend, Ind., where his father worked at the Studebaker automotive plant.After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served from 1944 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater, including service in Japan as part of the occupying forces following the end of the war. After mustering out of the Army he attended college on the GI Bill, receiving his bachelor of arts degree in history from Ohio University in 1950 and his master’s in library sciences from Case Western Reserve in 1951.It was while at college, on a blind date arranged by an Army and college buddy, that he met Marjorie Elizabeth Brian of Salem, Ohio, who received a bachelor of arts degree in English from Case Western Reserve. They couple married and Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, John Brian Colson, in Cleveland in 1951. (John B. Colson is a reporter at The Aspen Times.)The young couple moved to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1951, where Colson worked as a librarian for the Milwaukee Public Library. Two years later they relocated to Madison, Wis., where he went to work as a librarian and archivist for the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and where the couple had two more children, Ruth Ann Colson and Stuart Ernest Colson.In 1960, Colson took a leave from the WSHS to move for a year to Chicago, where he attended classes for his doctorate in library sciences at the University of Chicago. Returning to Madison, the family remained there until 1966, when Colson relocated to suburban Maryland outside Washington, D.C., working as a professor of library sciences at the University of Maryland in College Park. In 1970, Colson was granted a year’s leave to travel with his family to Aberystwyth, Wales, to teach at the University College of Wales.In 1974 he left the University of Maryland and moved back to Chicago, teaching for a time at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, and then at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill.In 1976 he divorced his wife of 27 years, and was soon remarried to Colleen LaVerne Ragouska of Alaska. The two, who had met at an archivists convention, lived in DeKalb along with Colleen’s children for two years until Colson left teaching and they moved to Chicago, where they ran a neighborhood print shop and lived until 1989. At that time the couple moved to Prescott Valley, Ariz., to retire and be near Colleen’s sister.While in semi-retirement, Colson continued to teach occasional classes at area colleges, and worked as a volunteer at the local library.Colleen Colson died unexpectedly in 2004, after which Colson relocated to Colorado to live near his eldest son, residing at the Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale (from which he was evicted for refusing to follow the smoking regulations) and then at the Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle.A lifelong Democrat and political activist, Colson helped found a service organization, Measure For Measure in Madison, Wis., in the 1960s, which sent food, clothing and other supplies to impoverished blacks in the South, and he stood with others at the University of Maryland in protest against the Vietnam War. He also was an active volunteer in party politics, working for local, state and national candidates, including the campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960, and working for Democratic causes while living in very Republican Arizona.He also was physically active throughout most of his life, playing league softball in Madison, riding a bicycle five miles a day to work at the WSHS, and taking part in regular exercises with the U.S. Army Reserves at Fort McCoy, Wis. – where he would not-so-subtly exercise his right to free speech by sporting a peace-symbol button on his uniform cap.He was preceded in death by his parents and his second wife, and is survived by his three sisters, Mary DeRyckere, Vera Goucker and Betty Ross, all of the South Bend area; his first wife, Marjorie Colson of Madison, Wis.; his children, John Colson of Carbondale, Ruth Colson of Madison, Wis., and Stuart Colson of Madison, Wis.; nephews, nieces and many friends around the country.
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