In Memory

John Fernstrom

John Fernstrom

Obituary from the Arizona Daily Star, November 2, 2014:

John Robert Fernstrom (age 68) passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by loved ones on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, after a protracted and very difficult struggle with respiratory disease. A long time Tucson resident, John grew up in Evanston, Illinois, attended the University of Arizona, and then founded Fernstrom Construction. John was a natural athlete who could do it all with strength and grace: baseball (he pitched a no-hitter in Little League), football, basketball, and he excelled in all track and field events - setting local records for the sprint. An avid reader, John contributed to the Pima County Library, as well as the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Preceded in death by his parents, Clifford and Dorothea Fernstrom and brother, Richard ("Rick"), John is survived by his wife Wendy Steffen; sister, Karen McCown (George); nephews and nieces, Bryan, Amy (Chad), Mark, Norman and Desiree (Joon), and numerous life-long close friends. A Reception to celebrate John's life will be held on Sunday, December 7, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. 3:00 p.m. at La Mariposa (1501 N. Houghton off Tanque Verde) - rsvps appreciated Arrangements by BRING'S BROADWAY CHAPEL.


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11/04/14 09:16 AM #3    

Donna Salamon (Bree)

Preston and Terry, I am so very sorry for your loss.  Thank you both for sharing your memories of John and the profound and loving affect he had on your lives.  I know this is a sad and difficult time for you.  You both as well as Wendy and his family are all in my thoughts and prayers.  John and I went all through Lincolnwood together.  The grade 3 class picture in the Lincolnwood group of photos in the Photo Galleries, he sitting on the floor, second one from the left.  (God bless my mom for writing all the names on the back of that class picture; the other photos do not have names, but I am sure that is John in the top row of the grades 1 and 2 photos, fourth from the right in both.)  May John rest in peace.

11/12/14 10:03 AM #4    

Leslie Perel (Brody)

Wanting for so many years to see my dear friends Wendy Steffen and John Fernstrom, I went on a search to find them, hoping they would come to our reunion. I found John's phone number and called. From the moment John answered his warmth came across the miles along with his great attitude, charm and friendly demeanor that I remembered from so long ago. Even while telling me he was ill, his attitude was positive and he made me feel that he was genuinely happy to hear from me - it was as though time had stood still. We talked about Wendy, their many years together and his deep love for her was very apparent. Since he was unable to travel he suggested I come there for a visit and graciously invited me to stay at their house. This was a beautiful and kind offer and one that truly touched my heart. I am so fortunate to have had a chance to talk to him. Learning of his passing saddened me greatly. My sincere condolences go to Wendy and their families during this most difficult time. Speaking to John was a pleasure and a privilege, a moment in time I will never forget and will forever cherish. 

11/13/14 03:19 PM #5    

Gale Glassner (Twersky)

I have known John since Lighthouse Beach days in Evanston when he and a group of his friends would chase us girls through the water trying to catch us as we screeched with laughter and innocent delight. I even went to the movies on a date with John the summer before 7th grade if my memory is accurate. He was a very special guy and I will always have a place in my heart for him. I extend my sympathies to Wendy and all who loved him. 

11/13/14 03:42 PM #6    

Jo Preskitt (Maxson)

John was my first actual boyfriend.  We dated while we were both in College. Me, NIU, John , in Tucson at U of A. We carried on with this long distance relationship for about 2 years. My favorite memory was of our trips down to Mexico during Spring breaks. What a great , crazy , rebel with a sense if humor and so much Charisma. I went on to move to LA and marry someone with the same free spirit and love of life. God speed, John. You taught me how to have fun. Jo Preskitt Maxson 

11/17/14 07:37 PM #7    

Carl Volante

Since I spent my first nine yrs in the penal colony [St Nicks] I have no history as far back as my classmates.Other than a few people I knew from little league I was an outsider. Can't remember the circumstances but John befriended me. It was very easy to be friends with John and to love him he made an otherwise lonely world a little less lonely. Since he was in the esteemed position of head boxboy at the A&P he used his influence to secure me a position there. Working together enhanced our friendship. While I could dwell on our adolessent deeds and misdeeds of which there were inumerable I would like to discuss the humanbeing and man John became.I think it started when I was discharged from my duty of teaching those commies American ways. John reached out with the considerable empathy that he possessed till his final days. Since John was in Arizona and I in California thru the years we were able to see each other and talk frequently. While I was in architecture school John was already designing and building beautiful spaces which influened my own professional aspirations.Well read, intelligent,artistic hard working lover of life.He made no distintion between work and play his life was a continum of both. His life was a melding of asthetics and moral imperative, never one to judge but always the first to understand.He never forgot your birthday that was always accompanied with a unique card and notedown to the last one when he had much more on his mind. Completly selfless and in comand of a healthy cynicism that comes from introspection of age. A humanist by instinct and design. It would be my own selfessness to think our relationship was unique. He made no distinctions treated everyone equally. John was my dearest friend in life and will continue to be in memory.If you belive.I am not sure.Ray when I am released from this penal colony look me up and let's do it again!

11/17/14 10:15 PM #8    

Bonnie Robinson

Thank you very much, Carl, for sharing your beautiful and warm memories of your very dear friend, John. Somewhere he is looking down and will always be walking very close to your side.I am very, very certain of this.

All the best to a very talented and kind man who also never forgets kindnessess.

Bonnie R

11/29/14 11:35 PM #9    

Scott Wiscomb

,My friendship with John began in the mid-50's in elementary school and continued throughout our lives.  We went to the U of Arizona together, where we were roomates and fellow "hashers" at a sorority house.  John was apparently less clumsy and/or more presentable to the sisters than I was because he waited tables in the dining room and I washed pots and pans in the kitchen.  

After Arizona, we both ended up back in Evanston for a few years, both of us trying to earn some money and biding our time until we could move west permanently.  Eventually, we took different paths and, regretfully, I neglected our friendship and only saw or talked to John very occasionally for many years.  However, when I reconnected with him a number of years ago, he welcomed me back into his life without hesitation and we remained close friends until he died.

John wasn't internet savvy.  We corresponded by phone or snail mail, but we had similar senses of humor and he'd call every few weeks or send a manila envelope full of jokes and articles and things he simply wanted to share with me.  He was just that way about his friends:  they were important to him and he showed it, and in so doing, he made you feel you were his best friend.

There's much to admire about John and the way he lived his life, beyond just being a reliable friend.  He was intelligent and fully engaged; also honest and direct - you always knew where he stood.  He was also mischievous, loved to laugh and have a good time, and he had a not well disguised rebellious streak that we shared and that no doubt contributed to some of the scrapes we got into as teenagers.  These qualities, along with his creativity, artistry and a discerning eye, shaped the full life that he lived.  And John was also a hopeless romantic.  I remember the time when we were at the U of A that I drove with him from Tucson to Boulder, CO so he could surprise Wendy - only to find when we arrived that Wendy had chosen that same weekend to fly to Tucson to surprise John.

I was fortunate to re-establish my friendship with John 8 or 9 years ago, which was some time after he had been diagnosed with the same disease that claimed his dad's and his brother's lives.  Although he knew his condition would likely be fatal eventually, I never once heard him complain.  He and Wendy faced it with strength and courage and the determination to make the best of the time they had left together....just what you'd expect from this man and the woman he married.

I love you John.  I'm grateful just to have known you and been your friend.

11/30/14 12:46 PM #10    

Sherrie Igoe (Dembrowski)

What lovely tributes to John that you, Scott, and many others have written.  I only hope they give Wendy and others comfort to know how many loved him!

12/01/14 12:30 PM #11    

Bonnie Robinson

Prston, Carol and Scott, you've really written beautiful and meaningful tributes to John and as written previously, some how I know John is smiling down on all of you and will always be with each of you forever. John was a very unique guy and your tributes attest to that fact. Thank you so very much for sharing.


12/05/14 06:53 PM #12    

Preston Cook

Nov 02 at 11:33 PM


John and I became friends at Haven; we remained friends all his life. John and I hung around at Haven and in high school, though he was much cooler than I, especially when he bought a 1959 Corvette.  That was the coolest car at ETHS.  Even better than my Model A Ford.

My first memorable experience with John occurred while we bicycled through Lincolnwood School’s wooded pathways.  John stopped and asked if I wanted a smoke.  At 13 I had yet to try a cigarette, and agreed.  One led to about six.  Attempting to mount my bicycle for the ride home, I found my head spinning to such a degree I was unable to balance and fell over. With a dizzy headache, I struggled to push the bike about a mile home.  That was the first, and last, time I ever had a cigarette.  So I give great credit to John for making me so sick smoking that one time I lost any interest in every smoking again.

During high school it was cars and California.  I owned about half a dozen prior to graduation, along with a big motorcycle. John and I would get excited just seeing a car with California license plates.  The Beach Boys in full swing.   More…

John and I planned to drive his 1959 silver Corvette with floor mounted three-speed stick shift to California after we graduated.  I quite my job pumping gas at SPUR in South Evanston, and on August 1, we headed west, top down all the way.  For those three days we were Buzz and Todd, just like in the popular TV series running through our time at ETHS.

The first night we stopped in Julesburg, Colorado, a town at the northeastern corner of the state, allowing me to have my first legal beer, as that was my 18th birthday, the legal age in that state. We drove hard for two more days on the old two-lane Route 80 passing every vehicle in sight, and never passed by another.  We spent two mesmerizing weeks in Northern California with John’s older sister Karen.  The tastes, smells, sounds, weather and geography captivated me, returning seven years later as a new home, now 43 years ago.

John dropped me off in Huntington Beach, a Southern California coastal town, while he drove to Arizona to enter the University.  I did not see him for several years, though we kept in touch.

One day in 1988 I received a call from John asking if I would do him a favor.  He had heard Wendy Steffen (ETHS Class of ‘64) had moved to San Francisco and asked me if I would check her out and report back.  Though not knowing Wendy well, I agreed to call her.  We had lunch one day soon thereafter, finding her to be fit, trim, and as attractive as she was in our high school days.  John was happy to hear the news, called her, and later married for the remaining 26 years of his life.


I often reminded John of his rescue of me that 1964 summer from pumping gas, that if he had not taken me to California, I may still be at SPUR gas station. A good, reliable friend is gone, far to soon, one who literally changed the trajectory of my life.  He will be missed and remembered.

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