APCAA Pays Tribute To Our Fallen Brother John W. R. Anderson (Fall 1952) – Chapter President in 1954
With profound sadness, we announce that our beloved John Willis Randall Anderson passed away on June 7, 2023, at the age of 89, after a brave battle with cancer. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 17, 1933, John's family moved to New York City where he was shaped by the culturally vibrant neighborhood of Harlem; Yankee ballgames, live theatre, museums, community activism, and most of all, jazz music, formed the foundation of a life well-lived.
The second of four children born to Mamie and Harry Anderson, John was an intelligent, forward-thinking man with practical advice for anyone who asked. John followed in his father's footsteps to Morehouse College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. A proud Morehouse man, John was president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, a member of Beta Kappa Chi honor society, the Student Council, and the Glee Club, Assistant Editor of the yearbook, and played Intramural Sports. While at Morehouse, John met and married his Spelman College sweetheart, Altona ('Toni') Johns, and had three daughters.
John was accepted into Howard University's dental school and joined the U.S. Navy Dental Corps during his sophomore year in a special program to recruit Black officers. He earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Howard and later, a Master of Public Health degree from the University of California at Berkeley. John had an illustrious thirty-year career in the Navy, which included a tour in Japan, service aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany during the conflict in Asia, and a pinnacle position as Head of Clinical Services Branch, Naval Medical Command in Washington, DC where he was responsible for clinical matters for all U.S. Naval Dental Clinics worldwide.
John rose to the rank of Captain and earned four prestigious medals, including the Navy Commendation Medal for which he was most proud. Unafraid to integrate mostly white environments in his personal and professional life, John was one of only eight Black captains in the U.S. Navy when he retired. John's first marriage ended in divorce and in 1985 he married Washington, DC resident, Eleanor ('Ellie') Burton Petersen. They remained steady, devoted, and loving partners until his death. After his Navy retirement, John served as a project director at his brother-in-law's consulting firm and later started his own office design company with Ellie.
He enjoyed a life of organized leisure which included favorite pastimes - hosting a constant stream of guests at home in Shepherd Park, researching family ancestry, and supporting Ellie in local political activities. John was a cool, charming, and mellow guy with a deep, gentle voice. He exuded a quiet strength and commanded respect in an understated fashion. Impeccably dressed for every occasion, John was stylish, cultured, and a great conversationalist. A true family man and wonderful role model, he was fully present and impactful in the lives of those he knew and cared about. He hated to see others struggle and did what he could to lend a helping hand.
John was preceded in death by his parents, and sister, Harriet Mayner. Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife, Eleanor; daughters, Shelly Wolfe (George), Jocelyn Hill (Keith), and Millicent Olive (Cordell); five grandchildren, Wesley, Scott, Brianna, Michael, and Colton; sister, Mary Rogers; brother, Nathaniel Anderson; three nieces; a nephew; four stepchildren, Gayle Petersen, Dana Petersen-Moore (Ralph), Frank Petersen III (Jasline), and Lindsay Pulliam (Linwood); and other dear family and friends. We deeply appreciate the care given to John by the Brightview Grosvenor and JSSA Hospice staff. A viewing will be held Tuesday, June 27, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at McGuire Funeral Service, Inc., 7400 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20012. John will be laid to rest during a private family ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (date currently unknown). In lieu of flowers, donations to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance (www.ccalliance.org) are greatly appreciated.