John Lyle SanfordJohn Lyle Sanford, loving husband to Andrea Gates Sanford and longtime Seattle resident, died Sunday evening. John was 53. He grew up in Houston, Texas, the middle child of three, and showed an early resilience to physical calamity by fighting and beating widely metastasized testicular cancer at the age of 17. His life and personality were shaped by this. Those who know him attest to his larger-than-life personality and zest to live, all of which could not be contained by a body that, increasingly, had trouble keeping up with John.

John graduated from the University of Texas in 1978 with a degree in art history. He spent two years in the early 80s in Bordeaux, France, continuing to study art and cementing his lifelong love for good food and wine. And cars. And driving fast on small roads.

When John returned to Texas, he worked as a freelance graphic designer, primarily for Texas Monthly. This is where he met the love of his life, Andrea. John and Andrea moved to Washington, D.C., in 1986, where they were wed in 1990. John became the creative director for Discovery Communications and became one of the founding members of the team to design and launch Discovery Channel Online in 1995.

John’s vision and talent in the early days of the consumer online world made him the perfect candidate to become the creative director for MSNBC in 1997. He and Andrea moved to Seattle, where John led the redesign of that site, which proved a seminal moment in the look and feel and interactive structure that defines that brand to this day. Some would say it also influenced the way interactive news sites were designed throughout the industry.

John joined RealNetworks as Creative Director in 2002, where he built a team of design and production professionals with whom he loved to work. As with all the people John worked with, they loved to work with him as well. His mentoring and feisty, fiery nature were much to behold. His frame was slight, but his spirit was not to be trifled with. Those who have had the pleasure of working with John know what a joy that is.

John loved hosting dinner parties, sharing his love for food with immense ease and style. Friends loved the delicious meals he prepared, the wonderful way he loved his Dobermans, and the way he was always so proud and wouldn’t let illness get in the way of living his life.

John will be sorely missed by the regulars at Safeco Field. Section 135, Row 29 will not have the fist-waving, sloppy-play-taunting, super fan to get things going this coming spring. John loved baseball. The Mariners might want to think about making him proud. Or the Astros.

John is survived by his wife Andrea, his brother Duane Sanford of Austin, Texas, and his sister Roseanne Johnson, of Missouri City, Texas. He is also survived by his niece Donna Johnson; by his nephews Nathaniel Sanford; Micah, David and Aaron Johnson; Jack Gates and James C. Gates; and by countless loving friends. John was preceded in death by his parents Jess and Billie Jean Sanford.