WASHINGTON - John Robert Charles Armstrong, 89, of Washington passed away and entered into eternal rest at 2:05 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, at his home.
He was born to Thomas and Phyllis (Perdue) Armstrong on Nov. 18, 1924, on the family's farm, near Lloydtown, Ontario, Canada. His parents moved to the United States before he turned 2, and his father's work brought frequent moves. At various times they lived in Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit, Mich.; Downers Grove, Ill.; Webster Groves, Mo.; and Birmingham, Ala.
John graduated from Trussville High School, near Birmingham, in 1942, and he subsequently joined the U.S. Navy. While in basic training at Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago, he met Frederick Waisanen from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who remained his best friend until Fred's death in 2002. Next, John went to Quonset Point, R.I., for quartermaster training. While on a day pass from there in late 1944, he went to a USO in New Bedford, Mass., where he met Madeline Herzog of Peoria, who later became his wife. She survives. From Quonset Point, John was sent to Philadelphia to join the crew of the U.S.S. Antietam (CV-36), a new attack aircraft carrier preparing for combat duty in the Pacific Theater. As a quartermaster, his duties included steering the ship and signaling. World War II ended as the Antietam neared Japanese waters, and it steamed into Tokyo Bay after Japan surrendered. His friend, Fred, saw the Antietam arrive, and they met up to renew their friendship there. Each later served as the other's best man.
John and Madeline married at Seaman's Bethel Chapel in New Bedford on June 22, 1946, and soon after left for California, where his parents had moved. They never got there, for when they stopped in Peoria, Madeline's father persuaded them to stay.
John enrolled at Bradley University that fall and graduated in 1950. He began working at the Peoria Journal in 1948, remaining with it after the merger that created the Journal Star, and eventually became the City Editor of the morning edition. He retired in 1991 after 42 years. One highlight of his career was interviewing author Carl Sandburg when he was a young reporter.
As John's career advanced, his family grew, and he and Madeline had nine children together. They became active members of St. Andrew's Episcopal (now Anglican) Church in Peoria, and he served there as a vestryman and warden many times over five decades. John also served as a leader for Boy Scout Troop 205 in Sunnyland for several years.
He and his friend Fred bought a piece of land on Lake Superior, near Aura, Mich., and built a cabin on it in the early 1950s, where they vacationed with their families. Later, as the families grew, John bought another lot on the lake and built his own cabin, where he last vacationed in 2013. There, he and Fred would get together whenever they could to smoke cigars, enjoy a drink, recite poetry and recall old times. He was a widely read man of letters, possessing an amazing range of knowledge, and was as likely to quote the Irish poet, Thomas Moore, as Kipling. To be in his presence was a literary lesson. A highlight at any family gathering was his vivid recitation, from memory, of James Whitcomb Riley's poem, "Little Orphan Annie." He also was expert at modifying stories as he read them to his children, much to their delight. Throughout his life, he was as generous with his time as with his treasure. Another interest of his was raising poultry, and he always kept a flock of chickens, geese and ducks at his rural home. He had a keen wit and a great appreciation for the well-turned phrase. He enjoyed life to the full; cherished his Scottish, Irish and Canadian roots; and loved his family as he did his Lord. He will be greatly missed.
He also is survived by his nine children, Kathleen P. (Robert) King of Secor, Thomas A.M. (Debra) Armstrong of Washington, John F.D. (Sue) Armstrong of Nashotah, Wis., Elizabeth M. (Tom) Zentz of Washington, William D.A. (Kendra) Armstrong of Clinton, Utah, Barbara M. (Martin) Klein of Washington, Arthur R.A. (Lesa) Armstrong of Washington, George R.C. (Theresa) Armstrong of Washington and L. Jane (Richard) Gestrine of Peoria; 36 grandchildren; 38 great-grandchildren; 12 great-great-grandchildren; one sister, Alice DeFriese of Scottsdale, Ariz.; sister-in-law, Marjorie Armstrong of Florida; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his brother, T. Robert Armstrong; a brother-in-law, Robert DeFriese; and two grandsons, Daniel Armstrong and William Klein.
There will be a funeral service for John at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, at The Cathedral Church of St. Andrew the Apostle. Father Shawn Doubet will officiate. There will be a visitation from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, at Deiters Funeral Home and Crematory in Washington, as well as one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment will be in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew the Apostle.
John's memorial website may be found at www.deitersfuneralhome.com, where condolences may be sent to the family.
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