John Sergeant Price, 90, cultural leader

John S. Price
John S. Price
Posted: March 03, 2014

John Sergeant Price, 90, of Bryn Mawr, a cultural leader and World War II veteran, died Saturday, Feb. 22, of cancer at his home.

For 60 years, Mr. Price was president and executive director of the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia, a cross-cultural institution.

Blessed with a knack for managing investments, he made sure the society was well enough endowed to offer the Italian lessons, films, lectures, art exhibits, and study tours abroad for which it was known.

The society subsidized the Amerita Chamber Players, a subset of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The group performed free concerts of 17th- and 18th-century Italian chamber music for many years.

In a letter to members posted on the society's website, he described the organization as being "dedicated to strengthening the bonds of friendship and understanding between the United States and Italy."

In addition to his activities here, Mr. Price oversaw the society's restoration projects in Venice over the last 25 years. The projects included preservation of major artworks and buildings in that sinking city.

Recognized frequently for his work with Italy, Mr. Price was awarded the Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 1995 from then-president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. But he rarely spoke of it.

"He was so shy, quiet about everything," said his companion, Eileen Rosenau. "He might hang it on his wall, but that was it. He was a quiet Quaker."

Born in Chestnut Hill, Mr. Price graduated from William Penn Charter School, earned an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, and studied business practices at Columbia University.

Mr. Price reported for active Army duty in September 1943. He served as a forward observer in an armored field artillery battalion in Europe during World War II.

Mr. Price served at Normandy, and in military campaigns in the Rhineland, the Ardennes, and Central Europe. He was awarded the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal for his service.

"He landed in Normandy a week after D-Day. He was the map reader. He was sent ahead to seek out the Germans," Rosenau said he told her.

When the war ended, he became an officer in the U.S. Military Government occupying southern Germany with responsibility for the welfare and repatriation of refugees and displaced Allied nationals.

He was honorably discharged from Fort Dix, N.J., in May 1946 with the rank of first lieutenant.

In civilian life, he worked in the publishing industry in New York before deciding in 1950 to devote his energies to the arts and cultural activities in Philadelphia and Italy.

"A curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art asked him if he'd like to become involved in the arts, and he loved it. He worked on it until the day he died," Rosenau said.

Mr. Price was a partner of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a member the Chairman's Council of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the World Monuments Fund in New York City, the Leopold Stokowski Society of the Curtis Institute of Music, and the International Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice and Vielles Maisons Francaises. He was a trustee of Bryn Mawr College.

His father, Philip Price, helped to form the Philadelphia law firm that became Dechert Price & Rhoads in 1962. The firm went through many changes and is now called Dechert LLP.

Mr. Price was a direct descendant of Union Gen. George Gordon Meade, through his mother, Sarah Meade Price. Gen. Meade is best known for defeating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Mr. Price's great-grandfather, Eli Kirk Price, pioneered the creation of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. In 1867 he was instrumental in the founding of the Fairmount Park Commission and the purchase of the land that originally made up the park grounds. He served as chairman of the Park Commission until his death in 1884.

Mr. Price was married for 66 years to the former Martha Eastburn Stokes. The couple enjoyed travel to Italy and summers at their vacation home at Quissett Harbor, Mass. She died in 2009.

Surviving are two sons, Nicholas and Philip; 14 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; a brother; and two sisters. Two other sons and two daughters died earlier, as did a sister.

Services and burial will be private.

Contributions may be made to the America-Italy Society, 1420 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.


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