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About John Last Updated: Sep 8th, 2009 - 08:07:52


John Ohliger Obituary

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John F. Ohliger, age 77, died on Sunday, January 25, 2004 at St. Mary's Hospital. John was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 11, 1926 to Louis and Aura (Funnell) Ohliger. He married Lori Millon in 1963. Later, he married Christina M. (Chris) Wagner on May 6, 1989 in Madison, Wisconsin.

John grew up in Detroit, Michigan where he graduated from Northern High School in 1944. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent three years in the Army of Occupation in Germany where he worked on the Army newspaper.

He graduated from Wayne University in Detroit with a B.A. Degree in Social Sciences and Speech and then went to work for the Michigan CIO Council. He moved to Los Angeles in 1956 and received a masters degree in education at UCLA. Upon graduation, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he pursued advanced study in adult education at the University of Chicago and worked for the American Foundation for Political Education and the Great Books Foundation.

In 1961, John moved to Berkeley, California and immediately began volunteering at KPFA-FM (Pacifica Radio). He became News and Public Affairs Director for KPFA-FM and KPFK (Los Angeles). He returned to school at UCLA and received a Doctorate in Adult Education in 1966 while training some of the first Peace Corps Volunteers.

Upon graduation, he became the first director of Continuing Education at Selkirk College in British Columbia. He moved to Columbus, Ohio where he was a professor of adult education at Ohio State University for seven years. During this time, he served as Faculty Advisor for Vietnam Vets Against the War, worked with activists at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and with the renowned adult educator, Ivan Illich, in Mexico.

In 1973, he moved to Madison, Wisconsin for a one-year visiting faculty appointment at the UW-Madison Extension. He knew that he had at last found his "home" in Madison. He worked for several years as a library clerk at the UW College Library. In 1973, he joined four others and, as organizing secretary, was one of the founders of WORT-FM Radio. He hosted a radio program, the Madison Review of Books, in which anyone, including young children, could review a book on the radio.

In 1976, he and several of his colleagues began a non-profit organization, Basic Choices, Inc., a Midwest Center for Clarifying Political and Social Options. For several years, he published a newsletter, Second Thoughts, in which he gave voice to his strong opposition to compulsory education, especially the move to force more and more adults to go back to school. John believed that learning is too precious to be forced; learning must be joyous, individual and voluntary.

John moved to Springfield, Illinois for three years in 1989, as his wife's work took her there. While there, he helped to start the Heartland Peace Center during the Gulf War. He also taught philosophy of education at Sangamon State University and worked at the SIU School of Medicine Library. In 1992, the couple returned to his "true" hometown, Madison, Wisconsin.

John has worked tirelessly in the fields of alternative education, listener-sponsored radio, free speech, peace, and worker's rights. He has written prolifically on those topics as well as on silence, laughter, Lao Tzu, the power of music and the written word, and much more.

John was inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Adult and Continuing Education in 2002.

John dedicated many hours of his life to helping his wife with her work, especially at the South Madison Branch Library and the South Madison Health and Family Center Harambee. He has helped hundreds of people, young and old, with difficult decisions and life changes through his love and support. He was a member of Veterans for Peace.

John is survived by his wife, Chris Wagner, his stepdaughter, Michele Millon of Cambridge, MA, two stepsons, Marc Millon of Devon, England and David Millon of Virginia, his brother, Louis "Fritz" (Barb) Ohliger of Carlsbad, CA, his mother-in-law, Roma Wagner, of Madison, WI, several nieces and nephews, his two cats (Boo, his "buddy," and Wei), as well as hundreds of friends throughout the world. He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Phil.

In accordance with his wishes, there will be no visitation or funeral. There will be a private cremation service. A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at a future date to be announced.

Memorials may be made to the John Ohliger Memorial Fund for the construction and upkeep of a website dedicated to John's writings and life work.

The family wishes to thank their pastor, Amanda Stein, and the members of Trinity United Methodist Church, John's doctor and nurse, Dr. Ann Stanger and Tina Perry, and the nurses at St. Mary's Hospital.

John's kindness, creativity and humor will never be forgotten by those who love him.


© Copyright 2004 John Ohliger.org

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