John Lyman Williamson

Madison: John Lyman Williamson died peacefully in his sleep in Madison on October 7, 2018, at the age of 77. John was preceded in his death by his beloved wife Sherry.

John grew up in Northern Wisconsin, spending winters in Hayward and summers on Trout Lake, near Woodruff in Vilas County. As a child, John was an avid hunter, fisherman and basketball player. He was a starter on the Hayward Hurricanes high school basketball team that won a conference championship his senior year of high school. During his teens, John spent every summer working as a fishing guide at Cardinal's Manitowish Lodge - a resort owned by his family on Trout Lake. As a guide, John was famous for catching fish when other's couldn't, and for cooking up shore lunches for his clients with the freshly caught fish. The summers working with his family at Cardinals, including with his brother Richard (Punch) and sisters Judy and Robin, were among the best of his (or anyone's) life. Many of the friendships he made during these years carried through for the remainder of his life.

In 1961, while guiding on Trout Lake, John met his wife Sherry. Sherry was working at a summer job across the lake, and, upon meeting, John and Sherry were immediately smitten with each other. Even though John was a student at the University of Wisconsin and Sherry was a student at Miami (Ohio) University, they continued dating beyond the summer and were married in 1963. Soon after, they settled in the Madison area while John completed his Master's Degree at the UW. 

After graduating from the UW, John began his lifelong career in sporting goods retail -- first at Petrie's Sports, and later owning Sports Savers and Sports World. John was a fixture on State Street for decades, always greeting friends, customers, and anyone else who happened to be wandering down State Street, with a smile and a story. He loved being a State Street merchant, but what he loved most was helping generations of college students who worked for him (including his own children Bradd, Ginger and Trent) grow into successful adults and pay their way through college. It is not an overstatement to say that many of the students who worked for John became additional family members to John, Sherry, Bradd, Ginger and Trent. 

In addition to his family, John had a rich circle of friends, including the State Street Brats "lunch bunch", his Friday night "fishing crew", his friends from the Madison Curling Club, his friends from UW hockey and basketball games, his friends and the staff at the Waterford and, of course, his hunting and fishing buddies. Although John's physical ailments slowed him down toward the end of his life, he was fortunate to have such a strong group of friends - particularly after Sherry died in 2016. 

John is survived by his children Bradd, Ginger and Trent, daughter-in-law Amerika, son-in-law Aubrey, brother Richard, sister Judy, brother-in-law Mark, and grandchildren Cooper, Whit and Mac. John will be greatly missed - the world will not be the same without his laughter, stories, friendship and animal pancakes.

A celebration of John's life will be held at Porta Bella 425 North Frances Street in Madison on Friday, October 26 from 5:00 - 8:00 pm.

Memorial donations in memory of John may be made to Fishing Has No Boundaries (, Ducks Unlimited (, or The Aldo Leopold Foundation ( 

Please share a memory. 

Cress Center
6021 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 238-8406

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