John L. Sommer died of a stroke on September 1, 2020 (age 93) at home in Palo Alto, California. Born on a farm in Illinois to a Mennonite family, he received his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Chicago. His wife Donna, whom many in the rug and textile world also knew, preceded him in death in 2017.
John’s passion for travel coincided with collecting rugs and textiles. During his extensive world travels, he became particularly fascinated by the textiles and culture of Kyrgyzstan, which he visited eight times. He wrote two books stemming from those experiences: The Kyrgyz and their Reed Screens (1996) and Klavdiya Antipina, Ethnographer of the Kyrgyz (2002) with Bibira Akmoldoeva.
While serving as president of the San Francisco Bay Area Rug Society for ten years, John’s lengthy and informative SFBARS newsletters were read by thousands. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Textile Arts Council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, a trustee of The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, and Honorable Secretary General of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets.
John Sommer will be missed but he will always remember as a courteous, generous and peaceful man.