John W. Webb was 13 years old, growing up just west of London, when World War II broke out.
At night, during the air raids, he and some of his classmates would take turns sleeping on his school's roof with a teacher present to watch for fires from the bombings.
The experience laid the groundwork for what would be a distinguished career as an influential geography professor and co-author of a text that became a classroom staple for decades.
Webb died in St. Cloud on Aug. 18 at age 93.
His hometown of Weybridge was close enough to London that the fire trucks and ambulances would wait there for the wartime bombings to stop. With blackouts in effect and no headlights on, the firefighters and medics would rely on Webb and other neighborhood boys to guide them around as they raced back to the city or to the nearest fire, said Jennifer Fusaro, his daughter.
"The young boys knew the streets," she said.
As soon as he was old enough, Webb joined the Royal Air Force, but poor eyesight kept him from flying. Instead, Webb became a part of the intelligence division, where he helped draw up maps of Europe that would be used for bombing missions in the later stages of the war.
After the war, he attended the University of St. Andrews, where he earned three master's degrees in four years and met his first wife, Anne Smillie, an American.
They moved to the United States in the early 1950s and had two children, Jennifer and John. Webb became an instructor at the University of Minnesota's geography department in 1954.
In 1968, he co-authored "A Geography of Mankind."
The text was pioneering in that it was organized by themes such as government, religion and economy as they appeared across the world, said John Adams, professor emeritus at the U.
"This was a sharp departure from the prevailing approach, which examined the world by looking at a sequence of regions," Adams said.
In 1979, Webb married Judith Holtan; they were married 40 years. He was recruited by the State University of New York at Albany, where he stayed until his retirement in the late 1990s.
After his retirement, he and Judith traveled around much of the world before moving back to St. Cloud, where they stayed for the rest of his life.
He is survived by Judith; Fusaro; his son; John; his sister, Ann; and four grandchildren.
Webb was the quintessential reserved, quiet Englishman, Fusaro said.
"He never raised his voice, he never swore or wore shirts without collars," she said. "You stopped to listen when he talked."
Last year, Webb told his daughter he wanted to go back to see England again.
She took him, and learned that when he left the RAF he had absconded with a few maps as keepsakes, including one, written in German and dated November 1940, that had been recovered by the Allies. It was a Nazi aerial map of Weybridge, Webb's hometown. Weybridge was home to an important airfield and factory, and the Germans lobbed some 500 bombs on the city over the course of the war.
The Brits had tried to disguise and camouflage the factory when the war broke out, but it could be seen right there, on the map Webb carried.
The old airfield now has a museum, where Webb and his daughter took the map some 78 years after it was created. It is now on display.
"It was really neat because all the volunteers at the museum came and crowded around him and wanted to talk about it," Fusaro said. "It gave him some closure."