Teacher, Athlete, Orienteer, Rogainer
Born: October 10, 1943; Wales
Died: August 2, 2012; Adelaide
John Hayden Williams was born into a coal miner’s family in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He attended the Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School in his high school years and became Head Boy. He won a scholarship to attend the University of Wales in Swansea and graduated from there in 1965. After a post-graduate year for teaching qualifications at London University, he migrated to Australia in December 1966 where he met and married Bronwyn, the mother of his two daughters, Rebecca and Nicola. John and Bronwyn divorced in the early 1980’s.
At school and university John was a keen rugby player and talented distance runner. He ran his first orienteering event in 1966 while at university. In 1972, on a return trip to the UK to teach for a few years, he again tried orienteering which was the start of his “orienteering addiction”.
John returned to Australia in 1973, settling in Adelaide where he taught at Blackwood High School. During this time he competed in athletics and was a member of the Western Districts Athletic Club from 1968 to 1978. In that time he was club champion four times.
During the seventies, John was one of the top distance runners in SA where he finished in top placing in track, road and cross-country State Championships. His best time for the City to Bay was 36min 22 secs when he finished 2nd.
In marathons, his achievements on limited training were the envy of experienced distance runners. His time of just under 2hrs 30 mins would win recent Adelaide Marathons.
In the early 80s John moved his athletic focus from running to orienteering. It was also around this time that he began competing in 24 hour Rogaine events. With his active mind and geography background, John found orienteering an ideal combination of fitness and intellect and, unlike track running, the fittest and fastest were not necessarily going to be the winners. So when he heard of other running types holding an orienteering event in Belair National Park, he joined them and, soon after, became a member of the first Orienteering SA Council in 1974. He was the president in 1975 and one of the founding members of the Tjuringa Orienteering Club in 1976.
At the beginning of 1978 John stepped down as Orienteering SA president and took on other roles including newsletter editor, schools coordinator and publicity officer. Within the Tjuringa Orienteering Club he has been a mapper, president, vice president and newsletter editor. He was also involved in developing school orienteering and helped coach the SA School’s team. In 1981 he donated the ‘Williams Primary Schools Teams Trophy’ which is still competed for. In 1994, John was made a Life Member of Orienteering SA while in 2005, with John Lyon, he produced the history of orienteering in SA, ’50 Golden Years’.
John was also a very keen rogainer, and was greatly delighted, in 1982, to be in the first orienteering team to wrest the Adelaide University Mountain Club 24 Hour Walk trophy from the bushwalkers and university students. From there, John went on to be on another six winning 24 hour teams, and probably as many winning 12 hour teams. He was also active on the SA Rogaining Association committee, particularly as newsletter editor.
John loved good conversation, reading, researching, writing, singing in choirs, and charming the fairer sex. He could hold an entertaining and informative conversation on almost any topic, and was always a positive, buoyant and interesting personality who would keep team spirits up, even when desperately lost, cold and wet in the wee hours of a 24 hour rogaine.
John was a ‘committed’ skeptic and atheist, who wrote many in- depth articles in support of his views in the religion/atheism, creation/evolution debates, as well as writing many ‘letters to editors’ of newspapers. He had a love of learning and knowledge and also of the outdoors and the bush. His sharp intellect and memory were with him to his last days.
Sadly, in the early morning, under a beautiful ‘rogaining‘ full moon, John Williams, 69, passed away after a 15 month battle with the asbestos related
disease mesothelioma. His final days were spent in the RAH and Mary Potter Hospice where he was nursed and tenderly cared for by his loving partner of ten years, Rossana Tepper, supported by a group of his close friends.
John is survived by his partner, Rossana and his daughters Rebecca and Nicola.