Friday, March 24, 2023
March 24, 2023


January 7, 1944 – July 18, 2009

John died as he lived — with joy, gratitude, wonder, humor, and amazing spiritual clarity and wisdom, defying the effects of brain cancer diagnosed 15 months ago. John was born in Jackson, Mississippi and raised in New York. He moved to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia Canada in 1988. He was a devoted member of the Baha’i Faith and embodied its teaching to “let your vision be world embracing rather than confined to your own selves.” He was adored by his family, including his twin brother Tommy, sister Linda, in-laws Dan and Farahnaz, nephews Chris and Craig and nieces Zhena and Nava. For 17 years, he was a Walt Disney imagineer, art director and show producer. As a boy, his nickname was “Mr. Toad” because he moved so fast. He later designed “Mr. Toad’s wild ride” at Disneyland. John received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon and Brandeis. His 40-year career as a designer spanned the worlds of opera, theatre, exhibit design, television, film, and university professorships. He was the lead designer for “Asia” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida and spent 6 years in Japan as Director of Design and Production for Tokyo Disneyland. His Disney colleagues called him a “quintessential gentleman.”

In 1990 on Salt Spring, John, with sister Linda Kavelin Popov and brother-in-law Dr. Dan Popov founded The Virtues Project, a global initiative inspiring people of all cultures and beliefs to live by their highest values. It has spread to more than 96 countries and has been endorsed by the United Nations and the Dalai Lama. John was a director of Green Islands, the board of ArtSpring, and a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Salt Spring. Of all John’s creative projects, the two most meaningful to him were The Virtues Project and his design for the Baha’i World Congress in New York in 1992. John’s family and countless friends will always remember his sweet nature, wit and humor, loyalty and wise mentoring. John and our family are deeply grateful for the compassionate care from our local palliative nurses, Dr. Dan Leavitt, Dr. Bob Crossland, and the staff at Lady Minto.

A celebration of his life will be held Friday, July 24th at 11 am at Harbour House.

All are welcome.

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Salt Spring Island
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