Dr. John Ellsworth Winter, age 92, Elizabethtown, PA, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus of Millersville University of Pennsylvania and Guest Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna, Austria, died the 8th of January in this year of grace 2019.
Educated in philosophy first at Juniata College, he earned a B.A. degree; then an M.A. at Villanova University; and Ph.D. at Temple University. After Lancaster Seminary he served two parishes, accompanied in both by a cadre of dedicated laypeople. Teaching for 39 years at three different colleges, John lectured at thirteen others stressing Socrates’ extraordinary understanding that Philosophy is “practicing dying.” Its contemporary interpretation is “The function of philosophy is not to answer questions but to question answers.” He was mentored for two summers by Dr. Albert Vail from the University of Chicago, who had been a student for seven years of the American philosophers William James and Josiah Royce at Harvard, sharing with John their ideas and lore. At Villanova Fr. Robert Russell, O.S.A., Philosophy Chairperson, launched him in Thomistic Existentialism. At Temple his dissertation “Humor and Faith As Points of Separation Between Man and Other Animals” was originated under reknown Kantian authority Dr. Richard Kroner, Heidelberg University, Germany, the only philosopher whose works the Nazis burned. Kroner was brazenly assaulted two times in his very classrooms by the Gestapo for open opposition to dictator Adolph Hitler and insistence on human rights. Kroner dared not be murdered because he was an honored officer in the First World War.
Encouraging, and encouraged by students through the decades, Dr. Winter was also disliked by literalists, nationalists, and reactionaries. He delivered papers on human rights to international audiences at the Inter-American Congress of Philosophy and the World Congress of Philosophy, exalting justice as the highest human virtue after freedom.
He was a member of the United Church of Christ, the American Philosophical Association, the American Association of University Professors, and a registered Republican following the principles of that party’s first and greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. Winter had minor publications but was in demand as lecturer on various academic campuses and public forums concerning the beauty and benefits of philosophy. Gratified to know sundry students who became dedicated professionals and challenging friends, his retirement years were graced with communications and visits by former students, often with “Buckwheat Breakfasts” at his home, always with buttermilk and/or limburger cheese.
He was the son of Wilmer Winner Winter and Estella Mae Snyder Winter of York, PA and the brother of Mona, Allen, Stanley, Minnie Mae, Jean, Glenn, Estella, and Jack. He bore the names of his uncle John Roser and cousin Ellsworth, and was named by aunt Anna Winter Roser. The three ardent motivators of his love of learning were father and mother, along with Uncle John who had been a one-room-schoolteacher.
Preceded in death by his first wife, public school teacher and Elder of the Church, Jean Ruth Hoffman; they had five children, all surviving: Leif Ellsworth, Arn Ellsworth, Jeannine Alicia, Val Ellsworth, and Alicia Jeannine, each a vivid personality.
He is survived also by his second wife, Dr. Elva Joan Shertzer McCann, psychotherapist, professor, and poet, plus four stepchildren: Elizabeth Alice, George Preston, Margaret Ellen, and Susan Arabelle McCann, altogether a blended family of nine children, twelve grandchildren, four great grandchildren.
John had a citizen’s love of freedom; a philosopher’s respect for rationality and skepticism leading to wisdom; a pastor’s understanding of the fragility of the human condition; and a believer’s faith that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
With a special affinity for pie, especially homemade, he knew that life is short, so dessert should be eaten first. He used two-dollar bills because they feature the only American president who was a philosopher, Thomas Jefferson, and the only bills that illustrate the founding of the Republic. He took a definite delight in paying his share of taxes, for they made possible living sensibly in this epic democracy.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM in Sell Chapel at Masonic Village, One Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown, PA 17022, followed by a celebrative reception. Private interment took place in Codorus Church of the Brethren Cemetery, Dallastown, PA at the convenience of the family. Arrangements have been entrusted with the Miller-Finkenbinder Funeral Home & Crematory, 130 North Market Street, Elizabethtown, PA 17022, 717-367-1543.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in John’s honor to the National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org or to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, www.masonicvillages.org
Condolences and memories may be shared at: www.FinkenbinderFamily.com
National Kidney Foundation
30 East 33rd Street, New York NY 10016
Masonic Village at Elizabethtown
One Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown PA 17022