John Anderson

June 24, 1921 - April 20, 2012
South Haven, MI



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Life Story / Obituary


John B. Anderson was a true Renaissance man, multi-talented, focused and willing to take risks. He learned about hard work as a young boy and grew to channel his energy in creative and productive ways. His professional demeanor and admirable work ethic earned him the confidence and respect of others throughout his community. John was also known for being warm and generous and devoted to his family. He truly lived life to the fullest – and always with lots of passion and flair.

The early 1920s were a collage of interesting events. There were power struggles in Russia, Babe Ruth was setting baseball records, and the first Miss America was crowned. These events, however, were far from the hearts and minds of John and Irma (Boston) Anderson of Joliet, Illinois as they were more focused on the newest blessing in their lives with the birth of their son, John, on June 24, 1921. John and his older sister, Jane, enjoyed a typical childhood of the time, growing up in the quiet suburbs of Joliet. Their father provided well for their family as a respected attorney with his own practice, and before the kids arrived, his parents were both world travelers. John’s family was proud of their Scottish heritage and raised the children with an awareness and appreciation for their history. John fostered a very special relationship with his grandfather, John Sr., who originally came to the U.S. from Scotland.

John was a very bright young man and an excellent student in school. He was editor of the school paper and wrote poetry in his spare time. Yet, John also played football and was a lineman on his high school team. He was liked by everyone and had many friends he hung out with – they called themselves the “Sure Shots.” After graduating from Joliet Township High School in 1938, John enlisted in the U.S. Army and proudly served in communications in India. Upon his honorable discharge, John returned home to Joliet and began pursuing his law degree, enrolling in classes at Northwestern University. No stranger to hard work, he worked his “butt off” to pay his way through college, and took as many diverse classes he could to expose himself to as much as he could. He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. With his degree in hand, John had his first interview with a law firm in Chicago which had a quotation above the door that stayed with him throughout his career, it read “Wealth, fame and power beget their own frustration such contentment as there is shared by understanding hearts behind a small door.”

It was during his college days that John was introduced to the love of his life, Marian, through his cousin. Marian was working for an advertisement firm at the time. The two were completely taken with each other from the start, and that was all it took for their love story to begin. After a whirlwind courtship, John and Marian were happily married in Chicago in 1947. Shortly after saying “I do,” the newlyweds moved to Joliet, where John began his career as an attorney, primarily working in Real Estate Development, which was quite successful for him, though he also dabbled in probate. A great humanitarian, John was very civic minded and always found time to give back to his community; he was a passionate advocate for many great causes over the years.

In 1950, John and Marian started their family, which would eventually include four children: John IV, Julie, Wendy and Paula. Time together was always important to John and Marian, and they took many opportunities to get away with their kids, vacationing every year for 2 weeks in Chautauqua, New York. John was a big Greek history buff, so much so that when he took his family to visit Greece – he was their own personal tour guide. John took great pride in his heritage (complete with his own kilt and plaid tartans) and had taken a trip to Scotland after the war to help bring relatives to the states.

Being involved in real estate, John had first hand knowledge of some prime places to build on. He was instrumental in “developing” several different neighborhoods in Michigan, including Linden Hills, Palisades Park and Deerlick Woods. He and his family lived in every one of these developments too. One of John’s pride and joys was the “compound” he built for his family in rural New Lenox, Illinois, which boasted of a pond, bridge and beautiful home. John was truly a skilled carpenter, not just building homes, but also intricate things for his grandchildren.

It seems John was not content unless he was busy. He always had an adventurous spirit, and many of his hobbies involved that side of his personality. His greatest passion and adventure in life was skiing – he used to say “Skiing is being.” John helped develop Indian Head in the Upper Peninsula, and the family spent countless weekends in their cabin up there, hitting the slopes every day. Later on, they would travel the world to do some power skiing. John couldn’t have been happier when his son became a great downhill racer in college – a chip off the old block! Something else he loved was sailing and participating in regattas in South Haven. John enjoyed playing tennis with Marian at the YMCA in Kalamazoo, and was active in the Boys Club of America, Rotary and the Universal Church in Joliet. Whether it was skiing, building, traveling or spending time with family, John was a master at enjoying life.

John greatly loved his family, and treasured every moment with them. He was a wonderful “Poppi” to his grandkids, helping them fulfill all of their “crazy ideas” while also teaching them the way of life. For fun, John would put together a circus with his grandkids every year, complete with props and costumes. Socializing with friends was also important to John and Marian, which often consisted of boxed white wine and some karaoke to Nat King Cole and old blue eyes Sinatra.

For John, life wasn’t about the destination – it was about the journey and those who you love along the way. He will be greatly missed.

John B. Anderson, age 90, died on Friday, April 20, 2012, at his home in South Haven, MI. Private services will be held. He was preceded in death by his son, John B. Anderson, IV, and sister, Jane Harper. Surviving is his wife of 61 years, Marian Anderson; 3 children: Julie (John) Mathias, Wendy Anderson Halprin (John Mooy) and Paula (Wayne) Gordon; 11 grandchildren: Alice, Ted, Peter, Marian, Johnny, Kale, Joel, Lane, Andrew, Molly and Zoe; and niece, Diane Sautter Campbell. Please visit John’s personal memory page at, where you may share a thought/memory and sign the online guest book.