In 86 years, John William Traw experienced 66 years of marriage, three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, a 35-year career with Merck, active duty during World War II, and the Great Depression. He survived it all with strong belief in God, trust in moderation, and the enduring love of his beloved wife, Threasol H. “T” Traw. He will be affectionately remembered by family, friends, neighbors and former co-workers.
Born in Walnut Ridge, Ark. in 1924, John largely grew up in nearby Pocahontas, graduating early from high school in 1941. Shortly before World War II, he and his parents, Clifton Traw and Jessie Campbell Traw, moved to St. Louis.
Eager upon being drafted in 1943, John fully enlisted in the U.S. Navy for six years. Assigned to recruiting duty in 1944 in El Paso, he was introduced to the love of his life, a WAVES (women’s Navy at the time) recruiter, naturally. The two were married within three and a half months of first meeting. In the early Cold War years, John toured the world as a pharmacists’ mate aboard the U.S.S. Leyte while his wife “T” worked as an executive assistant in the U.S.
Using the G.I. Bill, John received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from St. Louis School of Pharmacy, where he was senior class president, in 1952. Hired by Merck & Co. prior to graduation, he moved to Corpus Christi, Tex. for a sales position. Named to Merck’s “All American Sales Team” in 1956 and 1957, John also grew his family – son James Clifton Traw and daughter Jill Traw Monson are native Texans like their mother.
John was promoted by Merck in 1959 to sales supervisor. His new territory, based near Minneapolis, meant a wildly different climate. John and family embraced it, learning to ski and golf, and becoming ticket holders to the new Minnesota Vikings football team (which they held until the team moved indoors to the Metrodome). They also added son Kelly L. Traw, the only Northerner, to the family.
During 35 years with Merck, John became district manager but turned down other promotions in order to keep his family in place. He supported “Y Guides” and coached baseball teams while traveling extensively in support of his job.
Retiring in 1986 to Asheville, N.C., John and his wife barely slowed. He taught sales management as an adjunct professor at UNC-Asheville and joined the Leadership Asheville Seniors I in 1987. This led to active roles in United Way, Mountain Housing, Symphony Board, Welcome Wagon, and Civitan (1991-92 president). He also served on the vestry for Calvary Episcopal Church multiple times.
Mr. Traw was preceded in death by many family and friends and one beloved grandson, Matthew Monson. John passed in January 2011.
A memorial service will be held at 12 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24 at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, N.C. (www.calvaryfletcher.org). Memorials in lieu of flowers may be made to CarePartners Foundation, P.O. Box 25338, Asheville, NC 28813 or Calvary Episcopal Church.