HARTWICK – Lt. Col. John W. Penree, who served in the Army and National Guard for more than four decades, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va., on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. He was 61.
A native of Utica, he was born on Dec. 26, 1956, to William and Sophie (Hula) Penree. He was the third oldest of seven children, having four brothers and two sisters. Lieutenant Colonel Penree attended Frankfort-Schuyler Central High School.
He enlisted in the Army on Aug. 30, 1974, at Fort Dix, N.J., at 17 for basic training and AIT, where he became qualified as a heavy wheeled vehicle operator. Lieutenant Colonel Penree received his associate degree from City University of Seattle, going on to obtain his bachelor of engineering from Columbia University.
He joined the New York State Army National Guard in 1981 and received his commission as an Ordnance Officer in 1984 through the Officer Candidate School at Empire State Military Academy. He branched to the Signal Corps in 1988, where he was stationed in Fort Gordon, Georgia, and later rejoined the Active Duty ranks in 1999 where he was stationed at Fort Drum, New York.
Throughout his time on active duty as a signal officer in the Army, he held key duty positions both home and abroad. He was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., with the 10th Mountain Division; served in Sarajevo, Bosnia with the Combined Joint Special Forces Task Force; spent over three years in Larissa, Greece, with the NATO Joint Command South Center as deputy commander of Communications Information Support Group; and served in Poland as branch chief of CAX Division of NATO JFTC.
His final overseas tour was with the NATO Rapid Deployment Corps as the G6 deputy plans officer in Betera, Spain, before returning to The States to his final duty station to serve as the deputy commander of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in April 2015. He planned on retiring to his home in Upstate New York this upcoming November after over four decades of dedicated military service.
His deployments include two tours in Bosnia (2000 and 2004), three tours in Afghanistan (2002, 2010, 2012), and two tours in Iraq (2005-06). Among his many military awards were the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.
Lieutenant Colonel Penree was deeply devoted to his family, his country, and his Christian Orthodox faith. He devoted more than 43 years of service to his country as an Army officer, embodying the Army Values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. He was loved and respected by all those who knew him, both personally and professionally.
He was known for his expansive knowledge of history, the military, communication and radios, as well as his endearing and entertaining story telling. He loved antiques and collectables, as well as all types of music, especially classic rock. He enjoyed playing his bass, working on classic cars, weight-lifting, wrestling, spending time out in the woods of Upstate New York cutting firewood, visiting thrift shops, and studying military history.
He was one of the founding members of the Dust Devil Band and The Mechanix, both of which are still actively playing around Upstate New York and was also a member of the Cedar Valley Band. He started the Cooperstown Redskins pee-wee wrestling club and was cubmaster of Pack 72, Hartwick. He also worked for many years at Library Bureau in Herkimer during the period of his National Guard Service.
Lieutenant Colonel Penree was loved, appreciated, and respected by his family and friends. He will be deeply missed, and his memory will be eternally preserved and celebrated by his family, friends, colleagues, and all those he encountered and influenced throughout his life.
Lieutenant Colonel Penree leaves behind his “darling” wife of 27 years, Patricia Penree, and six children: Jonathan Penree (Karen), Justin Penree (Makoto), Emily Heise (Bowers), William Bowers, Elisabeth Penree and Madeleine Penree. Six grandchildren: Maximus, Reghan, Aya, London, Avery, and Nico. Six siblings: William Penree, Jr. (Kathy), Mary Ann Pratt, Clarence Penree (Mary Ann), Catherine Doolen (Darrell), Michael Penree, Peter Penree (Michelle). He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Patricia S. Ryan; several godchildren; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and close friends, and comrades.
He was predeceased by his parents, William Penree, Sr. and Sophie (Hula) Penree.
The family will be present to meet friends 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, and again 4-7 p.m. on Monday, April 9, at the Tillapaugh Funeral Home, 28 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.
Funeral services will be held (with military honors accorded) on Tuesday, April 10, at 11 a.m. at St. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church, 305 Main Road, Herkimer, with Father Thaddeus Franta, rector, and Father James Jadick, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, co-officiating.
Arrangements are under the care of Tillapaugh Funeral Service, Cooperstown.