John Paxton Williams
Everyone knows that one person who always has to be right. On January 8, 2018, we lost that person who truly was always right. A retired Naval Officer and registered engineer, John Paxton Williams, 95, was the epitome of a ‘walking encyclopedia’. Never one to overpower the conversation, John would politely guide you down a logical pathway until you came to the right – and his – conclusion.
A resident of Haddonfield since 1964, John’s story began in Woodstock, Virginia raised alongside his three sisters and two brothers. He grew-up loving baseball, along with hunting and riding with his father. John later attended the Virginia Military Institute where he was a starting pitcher and ranked top in his class. His time at VMI was short-lived after his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy just five months prior to Pearl Harbor. Due to WWII, John’s class of 1945 actually graduated in 1944 where he ranked within the top 4% of his class. Post-graduation, John received his assignment to the US WALKE DD723. Although a junior officer, his Captain appointed him Navigator. He also became one of only four qualified for Officer of the Deck Underway duty.
For his actions on a fateful day in what has become a bittersweet month, January, he was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He received the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action after the WALKE experienced one of the first “kamikaze” attacks during the invasion of the Philippines. While they were able to shoot down the first three, the last slammed into the bridge causing a massive fire severely injuring both the Captain and John. The Captain heroically maintained the conn of the ship before relinquishing command to John, who navigated the ship to safety. The Captain later succumbed to his wounds; he posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
After WWII, John attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute receiving a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering. During a tour of duty in Seattle, he met the love of his life, Isabelle Porter, née Zaffaroni. As he would always state, it was love at first sight. They soon married and began their wondrous adventure taking them around the world with their tight-knit Navy family. Retiring from the Navy in 1966, John began his career with Rohm and Haas. He was a devoted husband and caring father to their two children. Some of his fondest memories are the many family camping vacations, renovating their historic home, volunteering with the Boy Scouts, and being the trusted tutor to his daughter – and eventually her own children – who did not inherit his mathematical genius.
After his second retirement, John’s life was full of playing golf with the Haddonfield 65 Club, nurturing his green thumb with his wife, and being the ferocious reader of everything. He always had a newspaper or book by his side. He cherished speaking with his brother, sisters, and his son-in-law, Doug. Above all, he loved being surrounded by his family – especially as the second dad to his daughter’s triplets who grew up just three houses away.
For his kind heart, selfless and generous spirit, dignity and grace, and unwavering devotion to his family, John will be deeply missed. He is the true embodiment of a gentleman who gave everything and expected nothing in return.
John’s beloved wife, Isabelle of 66 years, a son Philip (Malvern, PA), a daughter Ann (Hambry), four grandchildren, three sisters and a brother survive him. One brother and grandson pre-deceased him. Services are private. In lieu of flowers, we request you donate to the Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice at 5 Eves Drive, Suite 300, Marlton, NJ 08053 or made online at www.samaritannj.org