John’s Life

John Horn, Jr. was born and raised in Denver, Colorado.  John spent his boyhood  hiking and peak-bagging 14,000 footers, as well as climbing  trees, buildings, and the occasional electrical tower.  Three of the Horn children-brother James and sister Jennifer-were avid competitive gymnasts, like their father John Horn senior, while sister Julia and his mother were musically inclined.  As a teenager, John was an avid amateur photographer, processing photos in his home-built basement darkroom, and financed this hobby by delivering the Denver News from his bicycle.

John did not discover rock climbing until the age of 16 while on a family sabbatical year in England.  On most weekends, John would catch a train from his temporary family home in Chailey to Tunbridge Wells, where he would rent a rope from Terry Tullis’ tea and climbing shop, and head out to Harrison’s rocks to apply his gymnastic skills to top roping on Southern English sandstone.

Early years as a climber.

On his return to Colorado, John honed his climbing skills at Eldorado Canyon, and later on the big walls of Yosemite Valley.  Although he continued competitive gymnastics and buildering while an engineering student at Stanford University, climbing soon became his passion.  In 1982 he climbed the Nose route of El Capitan using some of his own homemade camming devices.  This ascent occurred while John was an engineer at PG&E,  and in the immediate aftermath of his discovery of an important design flaw at the Diablo Nuclear Canyon power plant.

John’s skills at problem solving and photography lead him to reinvent himself into a software engineer.  In 1988, he began his 22 year career at LucasFilm on the EditDroid project, helping transition film editing from analog to the digital age.  Thereafter in the R&D division, “the code mine,” as John called it, he co-developed image processing, animation, and motion capture technologies.  John made important contributions to software engineering including 2 systems that won Academy Awards for technical achievement.  John worked on dozens of feature films, co-designed video game tools and computer technologies used on a TV series, and most recently he worked on a project with a patent pending.

After about a 5 year hiatus from climbing corresponding with his early years at LucasFilm, John rediscovered the sport by joining several local climbing gyms and in this way became a convert to sport climbing.  He first embraced “The Big Whipper” when projecting 5.13 grade projects at Jailhouse crag near Sonora, California.  In the last 15 years of his life, John and his wife Laurie’s shared love of sport climbing lead them to climbing adventures on 3 continents: France, Spain, Greece, Thailand, and John’s favorite climbing area of them all: Red River Gorge, Kentucky. You can learn more about John’s climbing accomplishments here,  see what his colleagues at LucasFilm thought about his climbing, or check out a video of his brilliant and adventurous life.

John Horn Jr. passed away on July 18, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  The cause of death was a stroke.  He was 55 years old.  John is survived by his wife Laurie Berliner; children Ryan and Kelsey Horn; mother Bonnie Hoskins Horn; mother-in-law Vivian Berliner; stepmother Penelope Trickett; siblings James Bryan Horn, Julia Banzi, and Jennifer Zoltanski-Rosenheim; and nieces and nephews Zahra Banzi, and Kyle and Haley Horn.