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John Bruce Derrick

May 15, 2024 | 13 comments

John Bruce Derrick, 87, passed away peacefully on May 14, 2024, after a long struggle with Lewy Body dementia. John was born October 7, 1936, to Alice Elizabeth (Abrams) and Col. John Henry Derrick in Minneapolis, MN.

When he was a little boy, his father served in the US Army, fighting in WWII, and after the war ended, when “Jack” was entering middle school, Col. John was called back to Europe as part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps to work in the Nuremberg trials. During this period, while the family was living in Heidelberg and Jack was visiting museums, castles, and antique stores, he was first exposed to the European arts and culture that would influence the rest of his life.

As a student of literature and philosophy, he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Minnesota in 1959. John was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and went on to do graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he enjoyed nine years of graduate student life.

He taught at the University of Hawaii for four years, and it was there that he discovered another significant influence on his life: his love for the tropics. He also met and married Peggy Jean Oates in Honolulu in 1972. In 1973, he completed his PhD. in British Literature.

They subsequently moved to Florianópolis, Brazil, where John taught at the University of Santa Catarina. He helped establish the English Literature graduate program and enjoyed rewarding relationships with his Brazilian graduate students.

John loved exploring the tropical environment of the island they lived on, and he acquired a small sailboat to escape out onto the waters of the large lake called Lagoa da Conceição.  In 1979, their son Alan Benjamin was born in Florianópolis.

John and his family returned to the US and Minnesota in 1985 to be near his widowed mother. He retired from teaching and purchased a small farm in Houston County. There, he devoted the rest of his life to immense vegetable gardens, reading, and the art of lost wax casting. Drawing upon his youthful love for antique European firearms, John attempted to recreate them. He produced many beautiful reproductions of 18th-century flintlocks.

His great loves were nature, literature, and classical music.

John is survived by his wife Peggy, son Alan, daughter-in-law Kelsey, and granddaughter Lorelei. He also leaves behind his two dogs, Cora and Frida, who adored him. His last few years were spent in memory care at Springbrook Village of La Crescent, where he received compassionate care from many, including a special friendship with his great advocate and caregiver, Shelly.

A Celebration of Life for John will be held on Friday, May 24, from 2 to 4 P.M. at Springbrook Village, 1384 County Rd. 25, La Crescent, MN. Prior to that, at 1:30 P.M., friends and family will gather for a small service at the same location.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, donations in his memory can be made to Ryumonji Zen Monastery, 2452 Ryumon Rd, Dorchester, IA 52140.



  1. Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard

    I am very sorry Peggy to hear about John’s passing. He was an excellent academic and a dear friend and colleague here in Florianópolis. We always remember you when we go to Lagoa, which is a very busy place now. You must visit us one day. Lots of love to you, Ben(who I remember as a beautiful blond boy) and his family. Carmen Rosa and Malcolm Coulthard

  2. Julie Nelson

    Peggy, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. This must be a terrible blow. My heart goes out to you

    • Carol Theisen

      Deepest condolences to you Peggy, your son, Kelsey,his wife, and their family. John was a brilliant and inspiring man. It was our pleasure to have known him. Many regards Joe and Carol Theisen.

  3. Nancy Schmidt

    I’m so sorry for your loss of John. Thinking of you and your son during this difficult time.

  4. Izabel Brandão

    I’m deeply sorry to hear of John’s passing.
    John was always ‘Derrick’ for us, his students in Brazil (Floripa). We loved his way of teaching, his kindness and playful way of keeping our interest in literature. I was lucky he was my adviser, and learned more than I can tell about Lawrence, this writer we both loved. The “green man” he gave me is still hanging on my jasmine tree.
    Derrick, you and Ben with his lovely blue eyes will always be in my heart.

  5. Ruth Crocker

    So sorry to hear of this Peggy. Our hearts go out to you; condolences from Les and I.

  6. Ann Geoghegan

    I suspect for John he is in a better place now, but I know it is a loss for you, Peggy, even though he has not physically been at your side for awhile. May your continued journey without him bring you peace knowing he is with the Lord and free from disease.

  7. Ani

    Dear Peggy,I am very sorry to hear about your husband’s passing. I did not know him personally, but from what you have told me, I know he was a wonderful person and husband. I remember when you spoke to Khatia and me about him, your eyes were filled with love. Keep your strength

  8. Shari Laffredi

    Peggy, I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. I didn’t have the pleasure of ever meeting John, but from what I have read, he was a wonderful man. What an adventurous life you had together! I’m sure you have many wonderful memories. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your son and your extended family.

  9. Khatia

    Dear Peggy, I’m sorry for your loss. Your husband’s passing feels like a personal loss to me, despite not having known him. I often recall the family stories you shared with us.

    Wishing you strength during this challenging time.

    With heartfelt respect,

  10. Dodo Gotsiridze

    I am so sorry to hear about John’s passing. Although I did not know him well, I have always heard wonderful things about him through our program staff and participants. Please accept my deepest condolences during this difficult time. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  11. Rebecca Mormann Krieger

    I am so sorry for your long lonely walk to losing John. We will never know how you felt, but always imagined your slow daily loss being ours. Find some solice now, John is not struggling inside himself…fearful. “He sees clearly now, and can love again”

  12. Kenneth Davids

    John and I met when we were both in our early 20s, attending graduate school at the University of California in Berkeley. We became close friends. During the histrionics of the late 60s and early 70s we were both passionate participants in and ironic commentators on the turmoil. We both taught at the University of Hawaii in the late 1960s; I returned to California but John remained in Hawaii, where he met and married Peggy. I often returned to Hawaii, and was one of the witnesses at his marriage, at a judge’s home in the hills above Honolulu.
    We stayed in touch, sometimes overlapped in time and place, but regularly calling and visiting one another. Several times I visited John and Peggy’s tidy, quietly poetic place in the hills. Along the way I watched with admiration as Peggy emerged from blond, pigtailed student in Hawaii to mature artist and administrator.
    John was a brilliant, original man, full of quiet wit, astute observation, and a profound passion for art and nature. I will miss him deeply. I wish I could be at the memorial to fully express my love and condolences to Peggy, Alan and Kelsey, who remember John as I do, alive and complete in his passion and intelligence.


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