October 21, 2014

John J. Valois

John J. Valois of Woods Hole died on January 28. He was 87. He was the husband of Frederica (Wellington) Valois for 51 years.

Mr. Valois was born in Brookline to Emilien and Ellen Curran Valois, grew up in West Roxbury and summered on Wings Neck, Bourne. After graduation from Roslindale High School he joined the US Navy and served as a flight engineer in World War II. After his discharge from the military he graduated from Boston University and did graduate work at Tufts University while teaching at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in South Hamilton.

In 1949, while in college, he began his 41 years at the Marine Biological Laboratory on the summer mess crew as a potato peeler. The next year Mr. Valois joined the summer crew of the supply department (now known as the marine resources center) and began his career as a collector of marine specimens for scientifi c research. In 1957 he became a year-round employee in that department and was named its manager in 1970, a position he held until his retirement in 1990. He took a leave of absence in 1959 to participate on a six-month Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution cruise on the Atlantis during the International Geophysical Year research initiative. Mr. Valois enjoyed sharing his knowledge of marine animals with people of all ages, especially children. He taught ichthyology at the Children’s School of Science and lectured in MBL Elderhostel programs. He participated in documentary films made at the MBL featuring the contribution that studies of marine animals made to science, with a popular one being “The Voyage of the Mimi.”

He valued his time spent with environmentalist and author Rachel Carson. In 1951, when he was a new employee at the MBL supply department, he was asked to take Ms. Carson to Lake Tashmoo on Martha’s Vineyard in the MBL boat Tern to collect samples of lugworms. Many years later he commented that Rachel Carson’s writing is “poetry in prose. If you are having a bad day, just read her books. Everything will be okay.”

Boating was his passion. He enjoyed racing, at which he excelled, cruising or just “messing about in boats.” He captained the BU sailing team for three years and in summers raced his Knockabout and Mirror dinghy at the Woods Hole Yacht Club. In the fall he enjoyed the Hog Island Beetle Cat races and in winter he raced frost-bite dinghies from Long Island to Scituate. He raced and cruised on friends’ yachts from Canada to the Caribbean and more than once was the nation’s offi cial champion in the art of skippering a Cape Cod Knockabout to victory in sailing races. He built his own 40-foot yacht, a project spanning 25 years, and always had time “to talk” boats.

Mr. Valois played on his high school ice hockey team and continued enjoying the sport when he moved to Cape Cod. He played goalie for the Falmouth Knights, helped coach the Falmouth High School team in its infancy and coached the Bears of the Falmouth Youth Hockey League for 13 years. He retired from pond skating four years ago. He was fascinated by the history of Cape Cod, especially the Falmouth and Woods Hole areas, and was a frequent speaker at the Woods Hole Historical Museum’s Conversation series. Mr. Valois contributed articles to the museum’s publications and to the books, “Woods Hole Reflections” and “The Book of Falmouth.” He reveled in narrating the history of the local lighthouses and the lore of the Elizabeth Islands on the museum’s spring lighthouse cruises.

He held positions on the boards of the Woods Hole Community Association, Woods Hole Historical Museum, Woods Hole Foundation, Children’s School of Science, Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, Citizens for Global Solutions and Cape Cod Knockabout Association. Mr. Valois was an ex-commodore of the Woods Hole Yacht Club, a member of the Quissett Yacht Club and a tennis member of the Woods Hole Golf Club and the Falmouth Sports Center.

In addition to his wife, he leaves two sisters, Pauline Valois and Marjorie Valois Till of West Roxbury; a nephew, Geoffrey Till of East Falmouth; and a niece, Ellen Till John of Summerfield, North Carolina. He was predeceased in 2007 by his brother, Francis X. Valois.

Burial will be private. A memorial gathering is planned for later this spring. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to MBL, c/o Development Office, 7 MBL St., Woods Hole, MA 02543; or to Woods Hole Historical Museum, PO Box 185, Woods Hole, MA 02543.

—Reprinted with permission from The Falmouth Enterprise