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Grant Park Mourns Tragic Passing of Longtime Community Pillar John Reagan

By Robert M. Sarwark

John Arthur Reagan, 75, longtime Grant Park resident, died in a wrong-way head-on collision caused by another driver. The accident occurred on I-85 in Auburn, Alabama on the evening of Sunday, November 13. According to the initial news report, John passed away shortly before midnight at Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital. At the time of this writing, his traveling companion and partner, Nancy Dougher, was still in the hospital with broken ribs and a crushed ankle. 

Mr. Reagan was preceded in death by his parents Arthur Ray Reagan and Kathryn Yancey Reagan; his brother, Phillip Ray Reagan; and his spouse, Clare Bard Reagan, who passed away in 2015. The two married on November 19, 1984. In addition to his partner, Nancy Dougher, John leaves behind two step-children whom he raised as his own, Clare’s daughter Emilie Henry and son Matthew Reagan (Katy), and five grandchildren: Aidan (19), Olivia (17), Rowyn (14), Lilah (11), and Emery (8). 

John was born in Gadsden, Alabama and grew up in Cedartown, Georgia. He moved to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech, from which he graduated with a degree in architecture in 1971. He remained active in his fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), serving on the chapter board as well as on the national board. He won numerous awards, including TKE alumnus of the year, the Southern Order of Honor, and the prestigious Medal of Excellence in 2009. In honor of his service and that of his wife, his fraternity brothers established the Clare B. and John A. Reagan Scholarship Endowment Fund at the Georgia Tech Foundation.

As a practicing architect with Urban Realty Partners, once located on Cherokee St. in Grant Park, Reagan designed several apartment buildings in the area. These include Copenhill Lofts Condominiums; Puritan Mill; Capital Gateway and Auburn Pointe, two innovative redevelopments of traditional public housing projects into high-quality, mixed income housing in downtown Atlanta; and the Reynolds Condominium in Midtown, among others. He played a major role in leading the creation of the Memorial Drive Revitalization Plan, which gave Grant Park a direct connection to the city and an urban “front door.” 

John was involved in the very early days of the restoration of Oakland Cemetery, serving on the board of directors in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was active in the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, working closely with them on planning and construction issues. He was also a key advocate and supporter for the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School. In the early ‘80s he and his wife Clare spearheaded the annual Mothball fundraiser, which continues to this day. John was often a strategic thinker and an organizing force behind community improvement efforts in our area of the city.

“John had an unusual ability to do things ‘over the top,’” recalled Penny Luck, a longtime friend of the Reagans and former resident of Grant Park. “His friends and acquaintances came to know those actions as ‘Reaganesque.’ We will miss him and his Reaganesque gestures.” Fittingly, the Reagan Family motto is reported as “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

A service celebrating John’s life was held at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA on Monday, November 28, with Rev. Dr. Andrew Barnett presiding. A private family burial at Westview Cemetery preceded the service. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in John’s honor to The Clare B. and John A. Reagan Scholarship Endowment Fund and sent to The Georgia Tech Foundation, 760 Spring Street, Suite 400, Atlanta, Georgia 30308 or may be made online at purpose for Reagan TKE Scholarship Fund).

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