John has always been my favorite geographer, in the field, in the seminar room, in the lecture hall, in his writing, and just sitting around at coffee hour or at lunch. He was a brilliant, creative scholar. His insight went straight to the heart of any question. For example, in one great study he used population potential models to predict traffic volumes for Minnesota roads and highways for decades to come. It was carefully and imaginatively designed. It helped figure out priorities for allocation of state and federal transportation monies. You can ask me about it at the reception.
John was a supremely gifted storyteller, with a prodigious memory for names and details.
One of my favorite memories of him was a magical moment on a field trip in 1959. He and Fred Lukermann, John Webb, and a few graduate students were on the trip. We were standing on an upland in southwestern North Dakota (or possibly northwestern South Dakota, it is so long ago), and John, gazing at the landscape, said: "You know, I think we are standing on the southern limit of continental glaciation." The slopes to the south of us were concave, clearly the result of stream dissection; the slopes to the north were more convex, modulated, irregular. The differences were subtle, but real, and John was right. He had a good eye.
His good eye and good mind helped him integrate. He would take students on field trips, urban and rural. With his prompting, students looking at a rural landscape west of the Twin Cities would eventually figure out the population density of the area in view, the farm size, and the type of farming going on. In due course, they would reconstruct, at least partially, some of the social and religious history of settlement.
John was good at connecting things, and finding meaning and pattern in unusual places. I recall the relish with which he described the economic geography of land values in central and southern Minnesota on the basis of the different kinds of radio ads (depending on where he was driving), that came on between the polkas performed by Whoopie John. Ho, Ho, Ho.
Johnís writing has always been clear, logical, elegant, and economical. I treasure a one-page handout he used in cartography and other classes about contours on topographic maps (and isolines more generally). He listed some 12 features of contours and what they meant as a means of describing topography and making generalizations from their arrangement. Of course, to him the map was central (as a way to ask questions, as a tool of analysis, and as a way to communicate findings). It is most fitting that the map library in Wilson bear his name.
Finally, John was fascinated with the world, the patterns and processes of human settlement. On that 1959 field trip, he took a special delight in the wonderfully named settlement of Node, Wyoming. This important central place in eastern Wyoming had a post office/general store, and a population between 2 and 11. He bought in the store a little white and red dog/fireplug that read Node, Wyoming, and kept it on his desk. He sent me a photo he took in 1993 on a revisit to Node, and his description was, as always, keenly observant. He wrote:
I remember all this about John, and more. He was optimistic and enthusiastic about learning and life, always generous in sharing credit, kind, witty, and loved.