Obituaries in Worcester, MA | Worcester Telegram & Gazette

John P. Widdison, a longtime resident of Sterling and former executive managing editor of the Telegram & Gazette, died on Tuesday, May 23, surrounded by his loving wife and family. He was 84.

Born on Feb. 12, 1939, in Greenfield, Mass., Mr. Widdison was the son of Timothy and Eileen (Sullivan) Widdison. He was raised in Clinton, Mass., where he graduated from Clinton High School in 1957 and the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1962. He was a standout basketball player in both high school and college.

After graduating from college, John met the love of his life, Eleanor (Joyce) Widdison. They married in 1964 and moved to Sterling, where they raised their family.

Upon graduating from UMass, he served in the U.S. Army before embarking on a journalism career with the Telegram and Gazette. He ascended to the position of executive manager editor during a time of intense media competition and oversaw the merger of the morning Worcester Telegram and the Evening Gazette. He was a beloved and caring leader who made an impact on generations of reporters and editors.

After leaving the T&G in 1992, he became the director of public affairs for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he worked until retiring in 2001. John was a fierce advocate for those with mental illness and served as a board member at the Genesis Club in Worcester.

He received many awards throughout his career. In 1993, he received a Commissioner’s Special Commendation from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Department of Mental Health. While at the Worcester papers, he received more than half a dozen awards throughout his tenure. He was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2019.

Known affectionately to friends and family as “Woody,” he was a horse aficionado. He enjoyed assisting with the horses at Rockingham and regularly took summer excursions to Saratoga with friends and family. He was a passionate Celtics and Red Sox fan and loved spending time with his wife and family at their summer home on Cape Cod before he and Ellie retired to Florida as snowbirds. Most of all, John took great joy in being surrounded by his family. He was a regular in the stands at his grandchildren’s events and was first to give them a hug or to provide words of encouragement, regardless of the outcome. Nothing pleased him more than being in a crowded house filled with raucous laughter and boundless love.

A devout Catholic, Mr. Widdison was a member of St. Richard’s parish in Sterling where he served as a Eucharistic Minister. During his final days, Mr. Widdison found peace and solace in reciting The Rosary with his wife at his side.

Mr. Widdison coached the Hudson Catholic boys’ basketball team in the early 1960s. He continued his love of basketball as a referee for several years. He later was active in the Sterling Lassie League, and volunteered at a local food pantry. He was also a board member at The Catholic Free Press.

In addition to his devoted wife, Ellie, Mr. Widdison leaves four children, Deborah A. Baron and her husband, Andrew, of Leominster; John J. Widdison and his wife, Lynne, of Plymouth; Patricia A. Fallon and her husband, Thomas, of Auburn; and Paula E. Pepper and her husband, Paul, of Ashland; nine grandchildren, Andrew, Elena, and Justin Baron; Emily and Benjamin Pepper; Anna and Jack Widdison; and Timothy and Caroline Elrick. He is also survived by numerous nephews and nieces.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Richard’s in Sterling on Tuesday, May 30, at 11 a.m. Calling hours at the McNally & Watson Funeral Home, 304 Church St., Clinton, will be held on Monday, May 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. Burial will take place at St. John’s Cemetery in Lancaster.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Genesis Club Inc. of Worcester, 274 Lincoln St., Worcester, MA 01605.

Posted online on May 25, 2023

Published in Worcester Telegram & Gazette

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