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John F.'s Story

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John F. Willey died April 24, 2016, in New York City after a four-year battle with leukemia. He was born in Haverhill, Mass., on August 13, 1930, to John C. Willey and Frances (Chase) Willey. John grew up in Haverhill and raised his family there. For the past 19 years, John was cherished by his wife and soulmate, Barbara Reynolds Greenberg. They made their home on the upper west side of Manhattan, a city John embraced and loved.
A registered professional civil engineer, John was a graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology. Retired at age 82, his professional career spanned 56 years, not including four in the Navy as a radar man at the height of the Korean War. Employed as project manager for 20 years by the engineering firms of VHB and Stone & Webster, John and his team of consultant engineers provided services to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority during the construction of the Big Dig in Boston. Before that, he worked as a civil engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the Bridge Branch of the U.S. Coast Guard.
John lived with gusto, and his life was filled with fun, adventure, loving relationships and many, many friends. He enjoyed movies, books (especially biographies), the symphony, and opera. He relished learning and was a lifelong seeker of understanding of human nature. With his wife, Barbara, he scuba-dived throughout the Caribbean until age 82, and kayaked in lakes, rivers and ocean marshes in the northeast until age 85. One of his favorite places was Plum Island in Newburyport, Mass., where year-round he walked the beaches and boardwalk trails. An excellent chef, he delighted in creating delicious meals for his family and friends. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1971, found recovery, and spent the last 45 years of his life in the service of other alcoholics. A “homespun philosopher,” he shared his humor, experience and wisdom through emails to friends and family, a blog at www.JohnFWilley.com, and his book, "Living the Life I Always Wanted." John often said, "All anyone wants is to love someone and to be loved in return.”
Eight of his children survive him: Patricia Willey Cattanach (Wayne) of Casnovia, Mich., Barbara Brugnani (Joseph Guilmette) of Saugatuck, Mich., Laura Cross (Richard) of Ypsilanti, Mich., Linda Rousseau of Haverhill, Cheryl Carroll (John) of Sarasota, Fla., Sharon Gelotti of Hampstead, N.H., Richard Gelotti (Carole) of Hollis, N.H., and Deborah Osgood (William) of East Kingston, N.H. John was grandfather of 10, and great-grandfather of two. He was loved dearly by his sister, Norma Horsch (Arnold) of Haverhill, as well as nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by his son, John F. Willey Jr.; sisters, Joan Brown and Barbara Willey; and grandson, Joshua Rousseau.
A celebration of John's life will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at DiBurro’s at 887 Boston Road in Haverhill. Gifts in memory of John may be made to Stepping Stones Foundation www.steppingstones.org or a charity of one’s choice.
Published on  May 8, 2016
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