Celebrating the life of John Wermer
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John was born in Vienna, Austria in 1927, the only child of Dr. Paul Wermer and Dr. Eva (Raudnitz) Wermer. After the Nazis took power there in 1938, his family, who was Jewish, was able to escape to England. Refugees at that time would be deported back to Austria if they did not have paperwork and a sponsor who said they would support them. An English doctor who knew his father helped with this. John’s Jewish friends and relatives who were not able to flee Austria were killed in the Holocaust
They soon traveled to the United States where they had relatives. John was deeply loyal to his adopted country, serving in the US Navy and always voting. His experience in Austria after the Nazi take over, and the challenges he faced as a refugee, gave him a great deal of empathy and concern for the plight of others.
Given what had happened in his youth John was particularly touched when the same public school he had attended in Austria before he fled started inviting surviving students back for a program to help today's students grasp what had happened and to honor those who had been victims.
John attended George Washington High in NYC and his fascination with Math started there. He went on to do graduate studies at Harvard and Uppsala University (Sweden). He got his PHD from Harvard in 1951. After an instructorship at Yale John was hired by the Brown University Math Dept. in 1954. He retired in 1994. John took advantage of his sabbaticals to accept invitations from several international universities and research institutes. His areas of specialization included Complex Analysis and Functional Analysis. Among other honors he was a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, an invited speaker at the 1962 International Congress of Mathematics, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and held the L. Herbert Ballou chair in math. His career was defined not just by his contributions to pure mathematics but also by his role as an engaging and inspiring teacher, graduate advisor, and colleague.
John met his Swedish wife Kerstin in the US after he returned from his year as a graduate student in Uppsala. She was on a temporary visa working for a family in Boston. They married in 1952 and were a devoted couple until her death in 1995. They are remembered as good friends and as the gracious hosts of many, many events.
John was grateful to all the people who enriched his life and those who helped him along the way. He talked about them with exceptional warmth and admiration throughout his days. John is remembered fondly by them all as a kind and thoughtful person who treated all he met with respect and genuine interest.
John is survived by his sons Paul and wife Carol Brownson, Carl and wife Alison Knox Wermer; four grandchildren: John (Hannah), Roberta (Peter), Eva (Francine) Leo (Ashley); and one great-grandchild Nicholas. There will be a private family service for his internment in the fall. A memorial service will be scheduled for 2023.
In lieu of flowers please donate in John Wermer’s memory to either Amos House (https://amoshouse.com/donate) or the RI Food Bank (https://rifoodbank.org/give-now/)
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