John Elliot Dewey
John Elliot Dewey was born in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1947 to Horace William Dewey and Margaret Avery Dewey. He passed away in his own home in Ann Arbor on September 21, 2021.
John (“Jack”) grew up in Ann Arbor. He may have been the first person in the United States to be firmly diagnosed as autistic on the high functioning end of the spectrum. His mother became active in national associations for autistic children, thanks to Jack, and was credited by Uta Frith as a moving force behind a definitive text about autism. Jack, under pseudonym, supplied many anecdotes used as case-history examples in the book. With steady support by his parents, Jack was mainstreamed before the word was coined. He attended regular classes at Mack and Burns Park elementary schools, Tappan Junior High School, and Ann Arbor High, where he was an outstanding student. Jack spent several summers at the Interlochen Arts Academy. He briefly attended the University of Michigan. As an adult, his life was blessed by the understanding and friendship of neighbors and work associates. This, plus his extraordinary talents, allowed him to live a productive and independent life.
Jack had perfect pitch and savant level musical abilities from childhood onward. He worked for 50 years as a piano technician at King’s Keyboard House in Ann Arbor, often tuning for celebrity pianists who visited Ann Arbor to play concerts at Hill Auditorium. Jack liked playing the piano himself, singing in choral groups, and composing music. A favorite game of his nephews and nieces, when visiting their grandparents and Jack in Ann Arbor, was to play Jack a few notes on piano: Jack would respond by improvising variations on their “themes”. Jack heard his compositions performed by musical groups in Ann Arbor from high school age onward. He once had the fun of hearing one of his compositions performed on the University of Michigan Carillon tower. That was a set of variations on the Westminster Quarters of Big Ben in London that he entitled “Big Ben on a Spree.”
Jack was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Margaret Dewey Huber. He is survived by his brothers James William Dewey of Boulder, Colorado, and Russell Avery Dewey of Statesboro, Georgia, and by the families of his brothers and sister. A private memorial was held by his family and co-workers at King’s Keyboard House.