John Mapp

Richmond has been blessed with the presence of John Mapp, who died Aug. 17 at age 89. Mapp certainly combined the two qualities. His devotion to the evening program at Virginia Commonwealth University has been well documented, as has his devotion to the older students who, against all odds, try to earn a degree part time. He also worked hard for so many organizations that a list would be impossible: Among these were Kiwanis, (he went a number of years with perfect attendance at its meetings), the English Speaking Union, the Shepherd's Center, the Richmond Public Library and his beloved Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. And he was a political activist for the Democratic Party. It was impossible to see his white car without knowing this — there was no room for another political bumper sticker. Though if Democrats were in the middle of a campaign, he would have found that space.

Perhaps less well-known was his distinguished record as skipper of a PT boat in World War II. When it became time to take Gen. MacArthur back to the Philippines, his boat was runner-up in the competition — a competition that he used to say he and his crew did not want to win because the winner had to repaint his ship a sparkling and very visible white.

As for the second meaning of character: He would undoubtedly admit to fitting that description. Although he was firm and often strongly excessively emphatic about what he believed should be done, he had a fine sense of humor, which allowed him to enjoy — as did his friends — the qualities that made his friendship fun.

He had since childhood suffered from a form of aphasia that gave rise to stories that still make his friends laugh. It was impossible not to enjoy his statement to one student that the course he was going to take ran "from September to Fredericksburg." It was certainly impossible to keep a straight face when he introduced a faculty member as "an ordinary man" whose wife was "even more ordinary."

He could even view his failures as jokes. The treasurer of his 1980 campaign for Congress was ever after introduced by Mapp "as my campaign treasurer — not a hard job because we never got any money."

John Mapp was blessed in his two wives: Mary Bell Archer Mapp kept the show happily and steadily on the road for 54 years. Elizabeth Nelson Robinson Mapp, to whom he was married for 10 years, and who also died on Aug. 17, worked for almost as many community organizations as he did. She gave his last 10 years a joy and interest that we all should envy. — Rozanne Epps


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