John Wolda ’56: 1934-2020

I learned this afternoon that my friend John Wolda ’56 has passed away. This makes a dark and rainy day even grayer. John was sunshine for me, his visits to the Woodson, often with his wife Harriet in tow, were full of laughter and happy memories. Harriet is the daughter of long-time Rice Chemistry professor (and occasional Athletic Director) H.O. Nicholas so between the two of them the stories went far back in our history. John’s genuine and active interest in the details of my work was both sustaining and touching. He brought in memorabilia, he wrote me notes, and he sent me a LOT of pictures, some cockeyed but all appreciated.

A fine pitcher on the Owl baseball teams of the mid-50s, John remained devoted to Rice athletics his entire life. This article from his senior season captures, I think, something essential about his character:

John wasn’t a very big guy but there was no quit in him. Win or lose, up or down, he always showed up. He told me more than once, with open amazement, how lucky he felt to have been able to attend Rice and how grateful he was for all Rice had given him. In return, his loyalty to Rice never wavered. He never forgot his teammates, his classmates, or his teachers. And I never heard him say a mean word about anyone.

John Wolda, Rest in Peace.

Bonus: This was one of my favorite moments in the archives ever. Back in 2014 John and Harriet were visiting and he asked if I’d seen a scrapbook about Rice football that he’d kept as a high school student and donated to the R Association at some point. I sure had, and when I pulled it off the shelf his delight was absolutely delightful.

Extra Bonus: He sent me this one in 2016.


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9 Responses to John Wolda ’56: 1934-2020

  1. Nancy Burch says:

    Sad news. Such a lovely man.

  2. almadenmike says:

    Oh, no!

    John was an absolute delight. We enjoyed talking & emailing about gardening and food, in addition to Rice and associated history and trivia. I cherish the memories of my visits with him and Harriet during a Rice @Stanford baseball series … as well at their home and at a dinner arranged by Alan Shelby during a couple of my too-seldom trips back to Houston.

    John always had a smile on his face and an infectious twinkle in his eye. What a wonderful person. He will be missed by all who met him.

    R.I.P. Papa John!

  3. John Wolda deserved all the plaudits in this tribute — and more.
    I was privileged to play with him for a few years and the other 4 seniors you mentioned.
    I believe Carl Reynolds, John Ludwig and Herby Chab. are all deceased. They were good teammates and good people. (I missed Marshal Crawford’s name in there, but maybe he did NOT play baseball his last year or some other reason.)
    John, RIP, Classmate. We will miss you.
    Gene PRATT , Rice Institute 1956

  4. Jessie says:

    So sorry for your loss

  5. Jim Fox says:

    What a great guy and wonderful man ! John and I played together on an amateur team in Houston for several years. John threw a knuckle ball that danced all around. It was fun trying to catch him.
    He always enjoyed when I would introduce him as “ the greatest knuckle ball pitcher I ever caught. “
    ( specially since he was the only one I ever caught !! )
    God bless you and miss you !
    Jim F

  6. Kyle Frazier says:

    Who are a wonderful, nice man who loved Rice and especially Rice Baseball. He truly did have a sparkle in his eyes

  7. Shirley Dittert Grunert says:

    John’s death is truly sad news. He and Harriet were special to everyone they knew. Deepest sympathy to Harriet and their family. Thanks for the wonderful memories. Shirley Dittert Grunert

  8. Harvin C. Moore, III says:

    John was a senior my freshman year, but due to struggling with Math 100 I did not see him pitch. My loss, but I did pass Math 100 that year. Later, when I was practicing law with the
    Bracewell firm, John was a key member of a Building Supply company that we represented and I saw him often. Friendship formed and permanent. Always a great and kind Man.
    Harvin Moore ’59

  9. Keith Judge says:

    I knew John from coaching kids basketball at the Westland YMCA when I was also coaching. I heard one of my kids refer to me as “another Mr. Wolda” – made my day. John was a great guy.
    Keith Judge

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