John Franklin Dunham, 84, of Wellsboro, PA, passed away peacefully in his home on Thursday, September 30, 2021. He was a lifelong resident of Wellsboro where he was a leader in the community for almost 60 years.
John was born on January 19, 1937, in Wellsboro to Franklin L. and Mercedes Nickerson Dunham and named after his maternal grandfather John Nickerson. He graduated from Wellsboro High School in 1954 and earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, in 1959. He attended the University of Pittsburgh where he received a master's degree, after which he served in the U.S. Army and Pennsylvania National Guard. He worked in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland and then returned to Wellsboro to help with the family business R.J. Dunham, Inc., an independent department store founded by his grandparents Roy J. and Fannie Dunham in 1905.
A gifted musician with a beautiful tenor voice, John participated in musical groups throughout his life, entertaining at store Christmas parties as a young child, participating in state music festivals in high school, directing the choir at the United Methodist Church, and singing in the Wellsboro Men's Chorus and his beloved college choir Singers at Allegheny College. It is fitting that it was through his love of music he met the love of his life Nancy Watkins when they both attended an Allegheny College Singers concert in Emporium, PA, in 1965. They were married on July 21, 1968, and celebrated over 53 years of marriage, working together as life partners and business partners.
John and Nancy settled in Wellsboro where they raised their family, and John dedicated his life's work to his community. He owned and operated Dunham's Department Store with his father and his brothers, serving as the company President for many years. In addition to his work at the store, he also served on the Board of Directors of the Wellsboro Hotel Company, most recently as Chairman of the Board. During his time with both organizations, he facilitated various construction and improvement projects including expansion of Dunham's Department Store's main floor in 1980, expansion of Dunham's Hardware Store in 1983, renovation and construction of the Penn Wells Lodge in 1986, renovation of the Arcadia Theatre in 1996, and renovation and expansion of the Penn Wells Lodge in 2012, among many others. He also served as the President of the Chamber of Commerce for several terms, was a Trustee of Mansfield University, served as President of the Green Free Library, President of the Wellsboro Rotary Club, and a lifetime member of the United Methodist Church. He was recognized for his dedication to his community through many honors including Rotary's Paul Harris Fellow and the Wellsboro Alumni Award.
When not busy with his many work and community projects, John also enjoyed spending time with his family, traveling, swimming, long distance running, and spoiling every family dog beyond reform. John loyally attended Allegheny College Choir reunions with Nancy and loved reconnecting with classmates from high school and college. He was most at home visiting with friends and meeting customers at Dunham's or drinking coffee and reading the newspaper on the porch at his cottage on Pine Creek. He will be fondly remembered by family and his many friends as a kind and generous man with a wonderful sense of humor, fantastic dance moves, and a warm smile.
John is preceded in death by his parents and his brothers R. James Dunham and Robert Nickerson Dunham. He is survived by his wife Nancy and two daughters Ellen Dunham Bryant (Shawn) and Ann Dunham Rawson (Joe) of Wellsboro, four grandchildren Madeline Wotherspoon Bryant, Jack Dunham Bryant, Katherine Nickerson Bryant, Jeff Robert Rawson, all of Wellsboro, and brother-in-law Edward Watkins (Chris) and family of Connecticut. The Dunham family hosted many foreign exchange students who became like family including Kathia Chacon (Juan Carlos) of San Jose, Costa Rica, and Hector Hernandez (Tammy) and their children Marisa, Alexandra, and Nathanial of Kentucky. He is also survived by niece Judy Dunham Shaal of Ohio, and nephews R. James Dunham, III (Dianne), of Wellsboro, Peter Dunham of New Jersey, and Bruce Dunham (Carol) of Maryland, as well as many grand nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank family friend Mike Wood and the staff at Wellsboro Physical Therapy whose help and care allowed John to remain in his home during his battle with the effects of Parkinson's Disease.
The family will hold a public memorial service honoring John's life at the Wellsboro United Methodist Church at a later date. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be sent to the Wellsboro United Methodist Church Organ Fund, 36 Main Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901, or to the Dunham Scholarship at Allegheny College, 520 N. Main Street, Box 21, Meadville, PA 16335, which provides funding to students from Tioga County and the surrounding area who attend Allegheny College. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Tussey-Mosher Funeral Home, Wellsboro, PA. To share a memory or condolence visit www.tusseymosher.com.
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