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John D. Glasheen

February 9, 1937 January 2, 2023
John D. Glasheen
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Obituary for John D. Glasheen

John D. Glasheen, 85, died of liver cancer on January 2, 2023, at his home in Usquepaugh (West Kingston), Rhode Island. John was a husband, father, lifelong social justice activist and appreciator of live music, especially jazz and blues. He was executive director of Rhode Island’s South County Community Action Program in the 1990s and taught in Brown University’s education department in the 1970s. In the last weeks of his life, family and friends had gathered close to give comfort and share their love and appreciation of John with him and his wife Susan Strakosch.

John often said the story of the twists and turns in his life were captured in the John Hartford song, “I would not be here if I hadn’t been there.” His life was shaped by the times in which he lived, his friends and family, and some of the most critical struggles of our times, such as ending the Vietnam War and promoting civil rights and marriage equality. John was indebted to thinkers such as Frank Boyden, legendary headmaster of Deerfield Academy, and progressive politicians including Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Bernie Sanders. It was uncommon to know John without learning about fictional characters who influenced his early years, such as Chip Hilton, the basketball-playing star of the 1950s boys’ books and the rags-to-riches hero Horatio Alger.

John grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, the youngest of four children born to William and Marion (Dougherty) Glasheen. He often said he was an only child of a single mother in a family of four, since his siblings were more than 15 years older than him and he never knew his father. His childhood revolved around family, school, reading, sandlot baseball and, later, football, which he played at his beloved Deerfield Academy and Brown University.

In his rich and varied career John was a social studies teacher and football coach at Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, and Mt. Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Later he was a textbook developer who promoted wholesale changes in how history is taught; a PhD student at Harvard University’s School of Education; a popular Brown University instructor who worked to provide better educational opportunities for students in urban schools; and an administrator at two Rhode Island anti-poverty agencies.

In retirement, John was often seen at the Rhode Island statehouse with his fellow Unitarian Universalists, promoting social justice issues, such as affordable housing, sensible gun regulation and new approaches to our nation’s criminal justice and immigration systems. He was also able to pursue his longtime interest in music by attending as many live performances as possible—at the Met Café, Lupo’s and Nick-A-Nees in Providence in the early years and more recently in Newport and at Peace Dale’s Pump House.

John was lucky in friends and family. He was an active participant in the Unitarian Universalist Church of South County Rhode Island, enjoyed the church’s men’s group and spoke at many of the church’s Martin Luther King birthday celebrations about meeting Martin Luther King in 1967. He leaves his wife of 31 years, Susan Strakosch, of West Kingston. He will be missed by his three children and their families: Leah Glasheen (Matthew MacWilliams) of Baltimore, Maryland; John (Jiva) Glasheen of Alachua, Florida; and Megan Glasheen of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He is survived by grandchildren Patrick MacWilliams of Saratoga Springs, New York; Benjamin MacWilliams (Emily Field) of Seattle, Washington; Allegra MacWilliams of Baltimore, Maryland; Chitra Lehka Glasheen of Alachua, Florida; and Simone Liu of New York City. He is survived by many beloved nieces and nephews and dear friends whose fellowship he greatly appreciated throughout the years.

Services will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of South County in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, on March 25, 2023, followed by a reception at the church and, later, a celebration at the nearby Pump House Music Works. Should you feel moved to memorialize John, please work to elect leaders who support social justice, economic security and healthcare for all.

“In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Peace Dale’s Jonnycake Center for Hope or the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County.”


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