John M. Dower, 82, the former vice president for public relations of The Washington Post Co., died of cancer Jan. 26 at his home in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Mr. Dower served 16 years at The Post, beginning in 1963 when he was named promotion manager of The Washington Post newspaper.

In 1974, he became vice president for communications at the newspaper, where his position included responsibility for public relations, school services and customer relations.

In 1978, he became a vice president of The Washington Post Co., with responsibilities for communications with stockholders and coordination of appearances of company executives before business and financial organizations. That position included communications between various Post Co. subsidiaries.

In retirement, Mr. Dower lived in Shepherdstown and Grindstone Island, N.Y. He did volunteer work in Shepherdstown with Meals on Wheels, Caregivers and the SHARE food program.

Mr. Dower was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Greenwich, Conn. During World War II, he served in the Army in the South Pacific.

After the war, he worked in San Francisco for BBD&O advertising, then from 1950 to 1962 was advertising and promotion manager for Ladies Home Journal in Philadelphia.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Marjorie Mix Dower of Shepherdstown and Grindstone Island; five sons, David C. Dower of Columbia, Jonathan W. Dower of Newton, Mass., Graham S. Dower and Roger C. Dower, both of Bethesda, and Alexander M. Dower of Connecticut; and five grandchildren.