COLFAX John was born on 20 June 1916 in Carrizo Springs, TX. His father was an attorney and also served in the state legislature. John's father wanted John to become an attorney and take over the law practice. John had other ideas and after two years in Texas A&M, got an appointment to West Point in 1939. In 1940 John returned on leave from his assignment to Puerto Rico to marry Rachel and take her back to Puerto Rico with him. John's ability to speak Spanish served him well in Puerto Rico to marry Rachel and take her back to Puerto Rico and later Ecuador (Rachel learned to speak Spanish while living in Puerto Rico).
A Service of Remembrance will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 2 p.m. at River Landing Retirement Community.
During the years between WWII and retirement in 1964, John was stationed in three more locations overseas: Ecuador, Japan (during the Korean War) and Taiwan. Son David was with them in Ecuador, both he and daughter Elsie were in Japan and Taiwan. The time in Ecuador was an intense experience personally and professionally. John and Rachel provided educational opportunities and personal assistance to the live-in help and in return were given loyalty and insight into negotiating an unfamiliar culture from the men and women they employed. John's ability to speak fluent Spanish was invaluable as he traveled all over Ecuador by train, car, and donkey, providing technical help to the Ecuadorian army. The most difficult tour was Japan. The children were young and went through the usual childhood diseases, Japan was occupied and the household help was much more distant. The Korean Was started and John spent some time in Korea, and was awarded the Legion of Merit decoration. Stations in the US included Fort Monmouth, Fort Bragg, and several assignments to the Pentagon, as well as several school including the Air War College at Maxwell Field Alabama, and the University of Illinois for a Master's degree in radio engineering. John retired from the Army as a full colonel in the summer of 1964.
After retirement John taught physics and other sciences in high school, first as the Sidwell Friends School, Washington DC (5 years) and then in the Fairfax County VA public schools (11 years). After John retired from teaching school, John and Rachel moved from northern Virginia to Greenville, SC in 1984. Forever the scientist and electrical engineer, John found that there were many old computers being discarded and that he could repair them. Between about 1985 and 2000 he repaired several hundred computers and gave them away, mostly to schools and high school students- his first "customer" was New Garden Friends School in Greensboro, NC, where two of his own grandchildren were attending. John also found that the elementary schools wanted help in teaching science, and for many years he taught science in elementary school as a volunteer. He devised simple experiments and took great delight in thrilling the students with water bottle rockets at outdoor school events.
While living in Greenville, John and Rachel were avid participants in Elderhostel programs. Both enjoyed travel and the challenge of learning new ideas. They were also members of the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and contributed in many ways to the ongoing activities of that church.