John Ellis Williamson, a longtime Galvestonian who inspired stroke survivors around the world to see themselves as productive citizens and take charge of their own recoveries, died Monday of natural causes at his home in Dickinson. He was 84 years old.
Mr. Williamson was born in Galveston in 1931 and spent most of his life here. He was a 1949 graduate of Kirwin High School and a 1956 graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After a short time working in Houston for the accounting firm Price Waterhouse, Mr. Williamson took an accounting position at the Monsanto chemical plant in Texas City and returned to Galveston to live.
In 1964, Mr. Williamson, then in his mid-30s, suffered a major stroke, initially losing his ability to speak, walk, and even dress himself. After months of rehabilitative therapy, he returned to work at Monsanto, where supportive supervisors accommodated the changes in his physical abilities.
He married Betty Lynch in 1966.
In 1968, at the urging of University of Texas Medical Branch doctors Tom Kirksey and John Derrick, Mr. Williamson and several other stroke survivors formed the Galveston Stroke Club, a pioneering patient-led recovery and self-help group. By the time of a 1973 Daily News article announcing the club’s affiliation with the American Heart Association, the Galveston Stroke Club had inspired over 100 similar groups across the United States and in six other countries.
Mr. Williamson and Dr. Derrick later formed a separate nonprofit organization, Stroke Clubs International, through which Mr. Williamson provided information and advocacy for stroke survivors worldwide into the early 2000s.
For most of his life, Mr. Williamson was also an active parishioner at Sacred Heart Church; and for most of his adult life, an active member of Knights of Columbus Council 787.
He and Mrs. Williamson moved to Dickinson in 2008 to live closer to their sons and their families.
Mr. Williamson is survived by his wife, Betty; sons, Chris, Gary, and Steve; sister, Gloria Conrad; daughters-in-law, Stacie and Stephanie; grandchildren: Tyler, Tristan, Ryan, Matthew and Grace; and numerous nephews and nieces and their families. He is preceded in death by his father, Jens; mother, Anna; brother, Jens; and sisters: Mary Helen Eaves, Dorothy Fraser, and JoAnn Fraser.
Mr. Williamson’s family will receive visitors beginning at 10:00 am, Saturday, December 5th, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, followed by a funeral Mass at 11:00 am, and entombment at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.