William John "Jack" Runninger

July 16, 1923June 23, 2017

I couldn’t resist writing one more column for RN-T so have composed my own obituary. Prior to my demise, of course. William John (Jack) Runninger was born July 16, 1923 in Aurora, IL. Although officially named William John by his parents, they proceeded to call him Jack instead. Which seems a rather stupid thing to do, and has caused all sorts of confusion during his life. He graduated from East Aurora High School, salutatorian of his class. Which seemed to set a pattern for his entire life, often second, never first. He then attended DePauw University. When World War II broke out, he joined the US Navy. He served as the Combat Information Center officer on the USS Newberry, an attach transport, and participated in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. When his ship was sent back to the States for repairs, preparing for the invasion of Japan, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Gibson. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese surrendered, preventing the bloodbath that would have taken place in this invasion. Following the war, his new bride and the GI bill paid his way through his schooling at the Southern College of Optometry, and he graduated in 1948 with a Doctor of Optometry degree. (Again as salutatorian). He then came to Rome to practice, not realizing at the time how lucky he was to be coming to such a wonderful community. He was in the private practice of optometry in Rome for almost 45 years. In addition he also became an optometric journalist serving as editor of three different national optometric journals. (Only two of them folded under his leadership). Also in addition he wrote a monthly column for these journals for some 35 years. He also served for many years as the United States consulting editor for Points de Vue, an international optical journal. Success with these columns led him to write a periodic humor column for the Rome News-Tribune for more than 30 years. He wrote more than 500 articles and columns for professional and lay journals, six books, and lectured at more than 100 meetings and colleges in 28 states. Modesty prevents him from mentioning a few honors he achieved along the way. Such as being chosen for the National Optometry Hall of Fame; awarded an honorary Doctor of Ocular Science degree; Benedict Professor University of Houston; Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater; elected Distinguished Practitioner, Nation Academies of Practice; member of the Governor’s (Maddox) Health Planning Council; the American Optometric Association Distinguished Service in Journalism Award; and in 1935, the prestigious C.M. Bardwell grade school award for best posture. He first wife Mary Gibson Runninger, his wife of 60 years, passed away in 2005. He married Helen Hayes Cobb in 2008. He is survived by three wonderful daughters, Nancy Watson, Star Hancock, and Janet Ballou. Four beautiful granddaughters, Jennifer Odil, Jody Turner, Beth Kendall, and Shelley Ballou. And 3 wonderful great-grandchildren, Roman Odil, Lillian Kendall and Noah Kendall. Of all of them, he was extremely proud. He is also survived by step children Kendall Clotfelter, Luke Cobb, Catherine Ledbetter, and Tom Cobb. Step grandchildren Emily Sweitzer, Dr. Julia Brock, Elisabeth Babb, Sara Lemons, Kristin Hunter, and Preston Cobb; plus 7 great-grandchildren.


William John "Jack" Runninger

have a memory or condolence to add?

Edwin Black

June 9, 2019

I first met Dr. Jack as my optometrist at the age of 8. He was a close family friend. Having moved away from Rome in the mid-sixties, we reconnected at a conference at Rome First Methodist. We intended for my coming from Atlanta and our having lunch one day. Never happened, unfortunately. We reconnected by e-mail 4 years ago with warm memories and still planned to get together. My dear Dr. Jack I find today is with the angels. I thank God for such a life-long friend. Our entire community was blessed he chose to be with us. Farewell, dear friend.

Pamela Miller, OD

August 15, 2017

Jack was always full of humor and incredible supportive of his colleagues. He is truly one of the giants of our profession and will be long remembered for his incredible contributions spanning many decades. We are better for having you as a friend.

Gina Wesley, OD

July 5, 2017

Loved reading all your articles, Jack. I never had the privilege to meet you, but you were and continue to be an inspiration.

William Gordon OD

July 3, 2017

I never met you, but I always loved your articles in the Optometry magazines. All of us Eye Doctors will miss you, your wit and humor were second to none!

John Rumpakis, OD, MBA

July 3, 2017

Jack was one of the first to invite (lure) me into the world of writing for optometric publications. 33 years later, I'm still writing. Jack, thank you for all of your wisdom and support over the years. The profession of Optometry was better because of you and your insight on so many issues that you discussed over the years. God bless!

Kenneth Lay

July 2, 2017

I have always enjoyed reading Jack's articles as they are filled with humors and life lessons. He will be greatly missed. Thank you Jack for all you have done for our profession.

Walter Drill

July 1, 2017

RIP Jack. Your obit was in true humorous form- the same as your Optometric writings . I have a huge folder of your articles from the magazines and have shared them with many patients and friends. Thank you for adding levity to our lives with your unique humor.

Kevin Wulff

July 1, 2017

Rest in peace, Jack. I knew you only through correspondence, but your revealed yourself to me and others through your writing. You shared some life's lessons, and you were one more mentor who helped guide the way for those of us coming after you. Thanks for all you gave us.
Kevin Wulff
Rochester, MN

John Swinford

July 1, 2017

I also knew Dr. Runninger only from reading his columns in optometry publications. I always enjoyed them and found them reassuring, helping me feel things were going to be OK.

Stephanie Y

July 1, 2017

RIP, Dr. Jack Runninger. Although I never met him in person, I feel like I knew him through reading the many stories he published over the years. He will be sorely missed by the optometric community.


Learn more about the Runninger name