John H. Wilson, age 91, of Painesville, Ohio, better known as, “Jack” by family and friends, passed away March 10, 2020, at David Simpson Hospice House (of the Western Reserve) in Cleveland. He was born in Cleveland, in 1928, just before the start of the Great Depression, which lasted into the late 1930s when he was still in elementary school. A good part of that time, he and his family lived in Chardon, with his parents living in an old farmhouse and tending to the owner’s large garden in place of rent. They always considered that move, and opportunity, a blessing from God, during those very dark, and difficult days. Jack attended Chardon High School and had many fond memories and stories he would share, of growing up in that community.
Jack was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He enlisted in the Air Force on April 11, 1946, in Cleveland. Originally, he had high hopes of being a “tail gunner” on a B-29, but Jack’s special talents were in graphic arts, a signer by trade, having gone to the Cooper School of Art. Once they found that out, Jack’s military career took a completely different turn.
Looking through all of my uncle’s military papers, he accomplished so much and moved up in rank very quickly. The first information that I found was his rank in 1948 as: Cpl. and he served as a “Draftsman.” Between 1952-55, his ranking went from A/3C to A/1C, and service titles changed from “Draftsman” to “Artist,” to “Illustrative Supervisor,” and not long after that he held the title: “Technical Sergeant T/SGT.” By 1966 my uncle received a permanent promotion to “Master Sergeant” a rank, at that time had not been given to those serving in graphics, but due to his exemplary record, that was changed. My uncle helped to break that “glass ceiling” for others.
He served 20 years, part of that time was when our country was at war both on the Pacific Coast fighting the Japanese and also in Europe, fighting with our allies, to dispose of Hitler. They needed good artists to create all things visual for their many meetings, and at that time that meant mostly done by hand, for long periods of time, even in underground facilities—in many parts of the world! Obviously, Jack had to have the highest rank of clearance (“Q”) in order to be involved in all that. He worked under Robert McNamara, our Secretary of Defense, and many other brilliant generals and men. The outcome was, the first intercontinental ballistic missile program that changed the world! They would request our uncle, by name, as they recognized his amazing artistic talents, dedication to the cause, and the vast knowledge needed in order to artistically draw and map out everything war related…missiles, the war plan maps, and more.
Jack retired on Jan 1, 1970 and became a recruiter for the Air Force. I found an article in the Sun Herald with the Title: Ex-Pentagon Man to Be Air Force Recruiter Here. The article stated: “An Army man, previously assigned at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., will soon become the official U.S. Air Force Recruiter for the Lakewood-West Shore area.” It went on to say that he was a Master Sergeant, with an outstanding military record, son of George W. Wilson of Willoughby, Ohio. We knew that he had gone to the Cooper School of Art, but this article revealed that he had also attended Valley College, in San Bernardino, California, and the University of Maryland, as well. Who knew? Most have heard of families with military heroes that say, so much of what their beloved veteran went through, they never heard about until after they’d passed. They would find letters of accommodations, pins, ribbons, medals, in their records and memorabilia, that made them incredibly proud wishing they had known it all before! Well, we have ended up one of those families! Though Jack could, and would, tell you stories that would keep you spellbound, we didn’t fully comprehend just how integral his talents and duties were to the war effort or how he had such a long and distinguished career in the Air Force. To us, he was just our very unique and fun loving, “Uncle Jack.” He was a very thoughtful and giving man - especially at Christmas! He had a great sense of humor, loved politics, and could cook like nobody’s business! Very independent, Jack lived on his own for 42 years until coming to live with us, his niece Candy (Mitchell) Edmonds, of Painesville, over the holidays, (2019). “We so enjoyed the three months that we and my sister Susan, had with him, getting to know and love him all the more. Jack was quite the entrepreneur after retirement, owning Wilson’s Signs company, in Eastlake, then Painesville; Jack’s Bar and even Jack’s Auto Title Service, both in Perry, Ohio.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, George and Edith (nee Springstubb) Wilson; sister, Ruth Curtiss (nee Wilson) (Edelinski), brother, Edward Wilson, and Jack’s x-wife, Geneva (nee Swieger) French, (married for 16 yrs., divorced in 1970.) step-daughter from his marriage to Geneva, Regina Funk (Tom), and their children: Matt and Sandra survives. brother Edward’s second wife, Virginia Wilson (88) of Portland, OR., survives. Edward had 5 children with his first wife and had 5 children, but alas, I never met any of them to be able to list them here.
Jack’s nieces and nephew, on his sister Ruth’s side are: Tom Edelinski (Mei-Chu) of Taipei, Taiwan, Dan Edelinski of Missouri, Susan (nee Curtiss) Ross of Painesville, Candace (nee Curtiss) Edmonds (Mitchell) of Painesville. In total, these four had 11 children; and their children’s children (total 24) with one, Olivia Mack (Tyler), having Jack’s great-great nephew, (Jaxxon M. Mack, 2 yrs. old.) These are those who have made up Jack’s “immediate family.”
Special thanks to three people. First to: Kurt Fogle, the Sr. Supervisor at Nye Rd. Apt. (Painesville) and Jack’s friend for the last 20 of 42 years that he lived there. He befriended Jack in numerous ways; taking him to doctor’s appointments and even shopping! He was our eyes and ears during times when we could not be there, and alerted us when we needed to be. God’s blessings be upon him. Also, Regina’s brother, Kenny Smith, who would visit Jack to bring him his homemade apple pies. Jack enjoyed them so much! When he came to stay with us, he had one with him! Then, last, but certainly not least, to “Nicole H.” the dear young RN at David Simpson Hospice House; we were very touched by her caring ways and believe that God picked her—just for Jack!
We are happy to share that our uncle asked Jesus to “help him, forgive him, and to come into his heart” just a day before he passed on. We are so grateful to our loving and patient Lord, for continuing to draw him to the end. We encourage all readers to consider reading: John 3:16, Romans 5:1 and Romans 10:13.”
Interment with military honors graveside, took place 11 a.m. Sat. 3/14/2020 at Riverside Cemetery, 385 Riverside Drive, Painesville.
Arrangements were entrusted to McMahon-Coyne-Vitantonio Funeral Homes in Willoughby and Mentor.
You can still leave condolences for the family, at: www.MCVfuneralhomes.com.