"There are some who bring so great a light to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains."
John Walter Vanderford was born in his parent's ranch house in Aberdeen, Idaho on February 22, 1933, the only son of Walter and Jessie (Adaline Brewington) Vanderford and only sibling to his sister Margaret. At a young age John was encouraged by his father to operate the farm equipment and participate in caring for the family potato farm and sheep ranch. John learned the value of hard work on the ranch, and it became one of the most defining characteristics about him throughout his life.
While he was a teenager, John's parents divorced. He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, with his mother, who worked as a teacher while he attended SLC schools. During the summer months, John worked on the ranch in Idaho with his father.
After graduating from South High School in 1951, John enrolled in classes at Utah State Agricultural College in Logan. As a gregarious and active networker throughout his life, John enjoyed making many friends and joining a variety of clubs and social groups at USAC. He had a talent for bringing people together, and using his knowledge and connections to actively uplift and serve everyone he met. He continued this trait of loving and serving his entire life. One especially dear friend was fraternity brother, Allen Leron Johnsen (from Bear River City) with whom he developed a life-long connection.
While in Logan, John’s friends introduced him to their faith. He extensively studied the doctrine and through time became converted to the restored gospel. John was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He and Paula Stanger, of Idaho Falls, were married in 1953. John graduated from USAC in Agriculture in 1955, and Cindy, their first baby girl, was born that summer.
Next, the Vanderford family moved to Provo to pursue John’s dream of becoming a seminary teacher. Encouraged to get advanced degrees for his pursuits, the family then moved to California where he earned a Master's degree in History from UC Berkeley. During this time his second baby girl, Tami, was born. Yet another move and quest for learning took the family to Salt Lake City and the University of Utah. There, after 2 years, John graduated in Pre-Med, and afterwards was accepted at the George Washington University Medical School in Washington D.C. The family of four moved once again, to Virginia, where they bought a home and welcomed their third baby girl, Susan, to the family. While attending medical school, John worked on Capitol Hill for representatives from the state of Idaho.
After the conclusion of his marriage, John moved to Texas to work in the Space Science and Math Department at the University of Texas Dallas. He was a member of a bishopric in Richardson Texas, and served as a Seminary teacher in the Dallas area. He enjoyed taking his students to see and experience other religions so that they could better appreciate what they had in their own faith. John served in numerous church teaching positions throughout his life. He was a dedicated disciple of Christ.
His dear friend, Leron Johnsen, tragically passed in 1976. In classic John-style, he stepped up to serve the Johnsen family in every way he could. He became a father to Leron’s children: James, Amanda, Joel, Jennifer, Miles, Jeff, Alec, Torianne and Lezlee. He married Deanne Gardner Johnsen (Vanderford) in Providence Utah in May of 1978. For the older children, he was a supportive step-father during difficult years. For the younger ones, he was as real as any biological dad could be. He was the only father they would know in this life.
When John, a confirmed bachelor of over 12 years, showed up to his Richardson Texas ward with Deanne and 8 children in tow, people were absolutely shocked. He, of course, got a kick out of the reaction!
In his 45 years with the Johnsen family, his dedication, love, and sacrifice have left an immeasurable impact that has touched generations. His support, encouragement, and unconditional love of “ALL” of his children, 3 + 9, "The Unofficial Dirty Dozen", and his grandchildren, to grow, value education, work hard, laugh often, be faithful, and find joy in their lives.
John and Deanne moved back to Utah, where he worked at Utah State University for the Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium and Space Dynamics Lab. John hosted Russian scientists in their frequent visits to the United States, arranged for fireside guest speakers, and helped to build support for teaching communities and science programs throughout the state of Utah and the west, while being an incredible neighbor and water master in Providence, Utah.
John Vanderford loved connecting with people! He loved sharing stories, to laugh and to be a prankster. If a giant pumpkin ended up in your car, the culprit was obvious. He was a humble man who quietly served others. His strengths were unconditional love, loyalty, encouraging support and understanding. For decades he generously shared his produce as he worked tirelessly in his garden. He craved knowledge and understanding in both the temporal and spiritual realms, and was constantly educating himself in a wide variety of fields. He was especially interested in people, their behavior and psychology, and found the history of mankind and God's creations fascinating to behold. He will be greatly missed by many and will forever be a part of those that knew him.
John was preceded in death by his wife, Deanne Gardner Johnsen Vanderford, his parents, John Walter Vanderford and Jessie Adaline Brewington Edgar, his sister Margaret, his lifelong friend, A. Leron Johnsen, and children, Miles, Amanda, and Susan. He is survived by his children, Cindy (John) Allen, Tami (Bob) Boyd, and Lezlee (Roger) Bishop, Torianne (Tony) Rawlins, Alec (Kirsten) Johnsen, Jeff (Pam) Johnsen, Jennifer (Steve) Stringham, Joel G. Johnsen, and James (Stephanie) Johnsen. He is also survived by 35 grandchildren, and 47.5 great grandchildren.
As per John’s request, he will be honored in a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral. Instead of sending flowers, John requested that stories or memories of him be shared. The Celebration of Life Open House will be held for John W. Vanderford on Saturday, September 3, from 12:00 to 3:00 pm in the Cultural Hall of the Edgehill Ward building, 262 Canyon Road, Providence Utah 84332. John did wish for all that knew him to join together and celebrate the things and people that he loved, and the faith and intelligence with which he lived. Friends and family near and far are invited to attend. Please email memories and/or photos to
, or send letters to 500 S. Edgehill Drive, Providence UT 84332.