John Clark Pratt – teacher, author, pilot, scholar, skier, fly fisherman, musician – died on Jan. 2 in Fort Collins. John won every battle with illness but the last, with grit, grace, and good humor.
John was born in St. Albans, Vermont, in 1932. He grew up in the Northeast, studied at Dartmouth College, then received a BA from UC-Berkeley. He then earned an honors MA from Columbia and PhD from Princeton in English and American Literature. John served in the US Air Force from 1954-1974, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was a jet instructor Command Pilot, and a Professor of English at the Air Force Academy. He served in Vietnam and Laos, where he was awarded the Air Medal and the Bronze Star. His Vietnam experience provided the foundation for subsequent landmark publications including The Laotian Fragments (1974), and Vietnam Voices: Perspectives on the War Years 1941-1982 (1983), which was called “the ‘absolute best’ book on the Vietnam War” and “perhaps the best one-volume introduction to the literature of the war.”
Following a Fulbright professorship to the University of Lisbon, Portugal, John became chairman of the English Department at Colorado State University. After another Fulbright fellowship to the (then) University of Leningrad, USSR, he returned to teach as a professor at CSU until his retirement in 2002.
John Pratt wrote, published, or edited more than 18 books, and numerous scholarly articles, poems, and book reviews. His major works included fiction (American Affairs (2010)) and non-fiction (The Meaning of Modern Poetry (1962), Writing From Scratch: The Essay (1987)).
John loved, he served, and he played. He was preceded in death by his wife of 34 years, Doreen. He is survived by three daughters, Karen Bartleson, Sandra Pratt, and Pamela Pratt of Colorado; two stepdaughters, Lynn Grams of Alaska and Christine Smith of New Jersey; one son, John Randall Pratt of Vermont; seven grandchildren; and great friend Barbara Leyendecker of Colorado.
John was an honored Rotarian; he was past-president of the Fort Collins Symphony Association and the Northern Colorado Traditional Jazz Society; he served on the Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado Memorial Committee and Northern Colorado Military Officers Association; and was a senior ski patrolman serving in New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, California, and Colorado. He could occasionally be found playing banjo with such bands as the Leningrad Dixieland Band and the Poudre River Irregulars.
A memorial service will be held in late January in Fort Collins. Details are pending through Allnutt Services in Fort Collins.
Published in The Coloradoan on Jan. 8, 2017