ONEONTA – The funeral mass for John Patrick Nowhitney, 93, a decorated Navy veteran of World War II, serving on the USS Belleau Wood aircraft carrier when it came under kamikaze attack, and member of the state Veterans Hall of Fame, will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. Monday, June 27, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 39 Walnut St.
Mr. Nowhitney passed away Monday, May 23, 2016 at the state Veterans Home in Oxford, with his family by his side.
Interment with full military honors will follow at 3 p.m. at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, 200 Duell Road, Schuylerville. A reception for family and friends will follow at 4-7 p.m. at Harvest and Hearth Restaurant, County Route 67 (Stafford Bridge Road), Saratoga Springs.
John was born on Jan. 19, 1923, in Hudson Falls, the son of John George Nowhitney and Myrtle (Dickinson) Nowhitney.
In 1941, he graduated from Glens Falls High School, where he excelled as an all-conference athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He was rated one of his school’s best all-star athletes.
John enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 19, 1942, as an Aviation Ordnance Man Third Class aboard the USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) until his honorable discharge on Feb. 2, 1946.
In the Pacific Theater, he participated in the last occupation of Guam, the occupation of the southern Palaus, the Philippine Island raids, Morotai landings, Okinawa raid, northern Luzon and Formosa raids, Luzon strikes and the Battle of Cape Engano.
On Oct. 30, 1944, while the Belleau Wood was patrolling with her task group, east of Leyte, she shot down a Japanese suicide plane which fell on her flight deck aft causing fires which set off ammunition. Before the holocaust could be brought under control 92 men were killed or missing, a memory that haunted John for the rest of his life.
Much later in life, John finally embraced the fact that he was a true hero in saving many lives that day, including his own. When he was inducted into the Veterans Hall of Fame on June 14, 2011, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, said, “John Nowhitney is a true American hero, the exact type of individual the state Veterans Hall of Fame was created to honor.”
It was an honor John treasured throughout the remaining years of his life.
John was awarded a number of military honors, including the World War II Victory Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one Silver Star and four Bronze Stars, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Combat Action Ribbon and Philippine Liberation Medal with two stars.
After the war, John returned home and worked at Greenhaven State Prison as a corrections officer in 1947-58. A true leader, he was quickly promoted to the Commander of C Block, becoming one of the youngest “hall captains” in the state during that period.
Seeking to run his own business, he left the state’s employ and in 1963 opened John’s Place, a tavern in Ballston Spa that became popular with Navy veterans and the local crowd. John also accumulated several pieces of real estate, which he bought and sold along the way, including John All Season’s Steakhouse in Schroon Lake.
John was predeceased by his first wife, Evelyn “Dee” (Campbell) Nowhitney on April 4, 1998. Also, by his second wife, Alice Elizabeth (Perry) Nowhitney on Aug. 15, 2015. John was also predeceased by two brothers, Donald P. Nowhitney, who passed in infancy, and Thomas Nowhitney, who passed away on Aug. 3, 1995.
Survivors include five children, Jana (Nowhitney) Brown of Malta, Denise Jonne’ Nowhitney of Mesa, Ariz., John “Johnny” Nowhitney of Albany, Joseph John (Dawn) Nowhitney of Franklin, and Lisa Lynn (George) Dolezel of Otego. Also, grandchildren Derek Brown, Bryson Jay Johnson, Dan Dolezel, Mat (Anne) Dolezel, Luke Dolezel, Nate Dolezel, Joseph John Thomas Nowhitney, Alyssa Jane Nowhitney, Danny (Brittany) Youngs, Cassie (Ben) Mumbulo, and Courtney (Gregory) Scott, and great-grandchildren Marcus Blain Nowhitney, Bryson Jay Nowhitney, Carter Youngs, Isaac Youngs, Zane Mumbulo, Addylan Mumbulo, McKaylee Scott and Eliza Scott.
John made many friends during his time in Hudson Falls, Saratoga, Ballston Spa, Schroon Lake, Franklin and Oneonta, and he shared many beautiful memories with all of the people he touched along his path.
He held a special place in his heart for his surviving sister(s) in-law Jane C. Perry of Franklin and Denise (Thompson) Perry of Oneonta, and Dorothy (Perry) Downs (deceased); and for his surviving brothers-in-law, Henry Magnus (Bobbi) Michelin, George (Debbie) Perry of Holly Springs, N.C., and William “Billy” Downs of Ballston Spa.
He is also survived by several nieces and nephews who John treated like his own children: Michael Michelin, Mary (deceased) (Greg) Ludlam, Robert (Trudy) Michelin, Peter (Gina) Michelin, Chris (Kelly) Perry, Nikki Perry (Jay Philbrick), and Kim (Devin) White.
Contributions in John’s honor may be made to the Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care, the state Veterans Home located in Oxford, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Online condolences may be sent to, www.lhpfuneralhome.com
Arrangements are with Lewis, Hurley & Pietrobono Funeral Home, Oneonta.