Warren D. Sawyer

Sawyer—Warren D. Sawyer, 103, on November 30, 2023, at Medford Leas, a Quaker retirement community in Medford, N.J. Warren was born on April 8, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pa., but considered his home to be in upstate New York on a farm with his aunts, as his parents were divorced. It was there that he was introduced to country living and Quakerism. He became a Friend by conviction at age 17.

Warren registered as a conscientious objector during World War II. He spent six months fighting fires and helping to build a national park in North Carolina. Not feeling he was doing worthwhile work, he volunteered to work in a psychiatric hospital. Under Civilian Public Service, he was assigned to Byberry Hospital in Philadelphia, where he worked for three years as an intern under deplorable conditions. Excerpts from his letters home are archived in the Peace Collection at Swarthmore College Library. Warren went to Young Friends’ social activities to escape the horrors of his work at Byberry. It was there that he met Ruth Darnell, a teacher from Westtown School. They married in 1945.

Warren volunteered for medical research experiments for yellow fever, jaundice, and polio. He traveled to Poland on a freighter with 600 horses to help rebuild the Polish economy. Travel and social activism would be continuing themes throughout his life.

Following the war, Warren found his professional calling to be in sales. He and his growing family moved almost annually as he received promotions. He went from New Jersey to Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. While in Lexington, Ky., Warren and Ruth befriended graduate students from India. In addition to introducing the students to American family life, they invited them to Quaker meetings for worship. The students found the silent meditation relatable to their own culture. The friendships have lasted for more than 50 years.

In 1962, the family moved back to Moorestown, N.J., which was Ruth’s hometown. Warren went into real estate, which would remain his career for 46 years until his retirement at age 87.

Warren’s interests in social issues included attending equal rights demonstrations, reading to the blind, and participating in the Alternatives to Violence Project in prisons. He was a founding member of Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, which located housing for the underprivileged, and later for seniors.

In 1982, Warren, who had been widowed the year before, married Florence Stickney Scott. Both Warren and Florence were very active in Moorestown Meeting until they retired to Medford Leas. After moving there, Warren served as a guide at the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, and traveled with Global Citizens Network to help locals with community projects in Tanzania, Indonesia, Belize, and New Mexico. He evaluated properties that had been bequeathed to American Friends Service Committee around the United States. He went to Cuba and Vietnam with Heifer International, and continued to help others within his community.

Throughout his life Warren was buoyed by classical and semi-classical music. He loved to sing choral music and old show tunes. He enjoyed games and sports like ping pong and croquet until he was almost 100 years old. Growing old and cutting back on being active was difficult for Warren, but he remained sharp and was involved with his interests and his family until his death.

Warren was predeceased by his first wife, Ruth Darnell Sawyer, in 1981; his second wife, Florence Stickney Scott Sawyer, in 2018; and one grandchild.

He is survived by three children with Ruth, Martha DeLuca (Peter), Janet Thomas (John), and Stephen Sawyer (Monica); three grandchildren; four step-children with Florence, David Scott (Dennie), Betsy Scott, Lynn Sahin (Hayati), and Carol North (Christopher); and five step-grandchildren.

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