John Beamish Lister, 91, retired Senior Advisor and career employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, passed away on November 17, 2019, in Norwood, MA.
John was born on May 13, 1928 in Brooklyn, NY to Walter B. Lister, later Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin, and Dorothy Lister (née Krauss). He is survived by his brother Peter Lister (and Cynthia) of Philadelphia, PA, his daughter Andrea Hiotis (and George) of Port Richey, FL, his daughter Gaye Bok (and Alexander) of Boston, MA, his daughter-in-law Maria Lister of Painesville, OH, his stepson Brook Boyd (and Connie) of Rye, NY, his stepdaughter Beverly Jan Stengel (and David) of Littleton, NH, his nieces Wendy Root (and Jason), Katharine Lister, Carolyn Gangji (and Karim), and Roselyn Ormond (and Sylvan), his nephews Charles Ormond and Richard Ormond (and Nathalie), his grandchildren Victoria Bacon (and Eric), Kenzie Bok, Abigail Bok, Oliver Bok, and Owen Lister, his step-granddaughters Madelaine and Allison Boyd, and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother Walter, his son Kevin, his wife Mildred “Bunny” (Boyd), and his former wife Roessa (née Ormond).
John grew up chiefly in Philadelphia, where he attended the Haverford School (1946), but spent memorable summers helping his grandparents at the Brick House, the Snow family farm in Brecksville, OH. He graduated Harvard College (1950, ROTC), served as a Captain in the Marines in the Korean theater (1950-2), and earned his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1955). After practicing law in Philadelphia, he married and moved to New York, where he was the principal planner and legal draftsman of the revised Zoning Code of the City of New York, which curbed speculative and political land valuations and required that skyscrapers have setbacks to bring more sun and less wind to city streets. He then joined the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he worked for over 30 years as manager of the organization and planning division and as Senior Advisor to the Executive Director, living on Long Island in Huntington and Old Westbury, NY.
John loved cities, challenges, and lively conversation—which often included his signature hearty laugh. He gave frank, smart advice. John deeply enjoyed games of all kinds: a technophile, he mastered computer and video games alongside crosswords and puzzles, and excelled at golf, croquet, and competitive bridge, which he played right to the end of his life. An indomitable overcomer of medical odds, he lived the last fifteen years of his life happily ensconced at Fox Hill Village in Westwood, MA, where he sang in the chorus (reviving skills honed as an undergraduate in the “Dunster Dunces” a capella group), became a devoted fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, and forged dear friendships that brought great joy to his final years. He often stressed the need for radical reform of our democratic institutions, starting with campaign finance. A loving husband, faithful father, and delighted grandfather, he will be much missed.
Interment private. There will be a private celebration of John’s life for friends and family in January at Fox Hill Village.
An exhortation from John Lister, writing in 1975:
“Looking to the future, which really is far more important than the past, I see great issues and great challenges for us before we retire from active living: We must address ourselves and our society to world problems of starving millions, fast-disappearing natural resources, impending environmental disaster, and the ever-present threat of nuclear holocaust. We must strive for improved governing institutions that are manned by intelligent, honest, and service-minded citizens. We must make the fruits of our society more evenly enjoyed by all its members – economically, socially, and psychically.
No one of us can have the kind of impact we individually would like to have on any of these problems. But, each of us may have a part of one or more of these issues thrust at us in a small context. All I ask is that we recognize the opportunity when it comes and then exert maximum effort towards an acceptable solution. I resolve to do more myself and hope that you will do likewise.”
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