John Viner was born in Washington, DC on October 17, 1937 to Bess and Gilbert Viner. He moved to Montgomery County, Maryland after graduating from Coolidge High School in 1955. He received a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland in 1959, an MS in Structural Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1961, and did further studies at the U of Maryland while he was an instructor.
In 1963, he married Eliane Mueller-Trapp, a nursing student from Alsace. True to his love of the outdoors, their first date was a canoe trip. For their honeymoon they toured Europe, meeting and visiting Eliane's family. Many later trips featured canoeing and hiking in the U.S. and across the globe.
He worked as a research engineer for the Navy at the David Taylor Model Basin until 1967, later as a research engineer for the Federal Highway Administration. During his career in highway safety he served as a member of several national and international research committees. In his spare time he testified on behalf of citizens groups on traffic issues and on land use proposals. John retired from the US federal government in 1996 as a senior research engineer, earning a Superior Career Service award. That year he was also recognized as Citizen of the Year in Montgomery County.
His most visible engineering achievement was conceiving and developing a specific guardrail shape, the thrie-beam, to improve highway safety, a design that has been widely adopted across the world. He enjoyed traveling and seeing it employed, first in just a few states but later across most of the United States and in Mexico, France, Turkey, and Romania. He considered himself lucky to be able to make such a visible impact.
John treasured his introduction through the Boy Scouts to the outdoors. Years later, he could not say "no" when asked to serve as scoutmaster, then as Eagle chairman, a position in which he served for 20 years. He was proud to have advised 42 boys in this capacity, helping them all to become Eagle Scouts like his son.
In 2001, John and Eliane moved to Durango where he developed a deep interest in the area's archeology and geology. He shared these interests as a Rail Ranger on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad and, with Eliane, volunteered at Mesa Verde National Park. He also testified on the traffic impacts of development proposals in Durango. John loved painting outdoor scenes and, after retirement, pursued that hobby as well.
John is survived by Eliane, his son Doug, daughter-in-law Tabitha, and several cousins.
Go fly with Eagles.
Published by The Durango Herald on Sep. 13, 2021.