NANFA-L-- remembering John

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 21 Aug 2006 19:27:36 -0400

I am shocked and saddened by this news. I last corresponded with John
earlier this year, when I told him that one of NANFA's founding members, Bob
Rosen, passed away. John asked for Dr. Rosen's phone number and placed a
call to his wife, Sharon. John said that he and Mrs. Rosen had a nice long
chat reminiscing about the early days of NANFA and collecting in the Jersey
Pine Barrens. It feels strange that NANFA has been around so long that its
founding members are passing away.

Some of us will remember John at the 2001 NANFA Convention in Ohio. "If it
wasn't for John," meeting host Rob Carillio said during a break in the
talks, "we wouldn't be sitting here today." John was given a warm round of
applause with a few cheers mixed in. He was visibly moved by the ovation,
and was no doubt moved to see how large and prestigious and active his
fledgling fish society -- first announced in the August 1972 Tropical Fish
Hobbyist -- had grown. John waved for the talks to continue, and they did.

I feel bad for John's kids. He had at least one grown-up child from his
first marriage, and two young children from his second marriage. They would
be 9 and 12 right now. I remember his daughter at the NANFA convention,
running the hallways and sloshing in the creeks. She was born premature, I
learned. My wife, Stephanie, remembers John pulling a photo from his wallet,
showing how his daughter was barely bigger than a dollar bill when she
arrived in this world.

We almost lost John a few years ago. He picked up some rare flesh-eating
bacteria in his elbow that wouldn't go away. The doctors kept prescribing
antibiotics, but the bacteria persisted. John's wife got fed up with the
doctors and drove him to a famous hospital. (Was it the Mayo Clinic? I can't
recall.) There the gravity of the situation was recognized and the disease
properly diagnosed. John remained in the hospital for weeks, maybe even
months. "She saved my life," John told me.

We had some tough times in NANFA in 1998 and 1999. John counseled me during
several long and late-night phone calls. I can still hear his voice -- with
its distinct Minnesota accent. It was soothing, paternal.

Chris Scharpf
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