John Austin (Jack) Touey Sr., 84, of Kingston died at Community Care Hospice, Wilkes-Barre, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
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Born Jan. 16, 1928, in Mount Joy, he was the son of the late Joseph B. Touey and Elsie G. Miller Touey.
Jack had attended numerous high schools, including Kingston High School, West Side Central Catholic and Wyoming Seminary. Preferring the pool hall (where he earned the nickname "Ace") to the classroom, his parents ultimately sent him to the Pennsylvania Military Academy (PMA), Chester. Although only in high school at PMA, Jack was recruited to play football as a lineman for the Pennsylvania Military College.
After graduating from PMA, Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army, a decision that would define his life forever. He went on to attend Officers' Training School at Fort Riley, Kan., and thereafter in July of 1950 was sent as a sergeant to fight in the Korean conflict.
For his heroic achievements and prior to his capture as a prisoner-of-war, Sgt. Touey was awarded a Bronze Star medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters with the letter "V" device. The orders for his accommodation read as follows:
"Sergeant John A. Touey, United States Army, a member of Company G, 23 Infantry distinguished himself by heroic achievement on 25 November 1950 in the vicinity of Kugang-dong, Korea. Company G had launched an assault against an enemy held hill but because of the numerical superiority of the enemy was forced to withdraw. During the withdrawal the gunner and assistant gunner in Sergeant Touey's machine gun squad were wounded, Sergeant Touey picked up the machine gun and moved it to an exposed position and effectively engaged the enemy. Under this cover fire, the company evacuated its casualties and effected an orderly withdrawal. The heroism and devotion to duty displayed by Sergeant Touey reflects great credit upon himself and the military service."
Unfortunately after that battle, Touey ended up behind enemy lines and with a gunshot wound to the leg was captured by the North Koreans on Nov. 25, 1950. For the next two months, Touey and other POWs were marched by the North Koreans to camps along the Chinese border, often in below freezing temperatures, with insufficient clothing and animal feed for food. Until his release on Sept. 1, 1953, Touey's principal places of internment were Mining Camp at Death Valley (Dec. 25, 1950, to Jan. 22, 1951); Camp No. 5 at Pyongyang (Jan. 25, 1951, to Aug. 6, 1951); Camp No. 3 at Chosin (Aug. 7, 1951, to July 26, 1952); and Camp No. 4 at Wiwon (Aug. 14, 1952, to Aug. 21, 1953). He was one of only a few POWs to attempt an escape. On approximately March 23, 1951, Touey escaped from Camp No. 5, remained free for three days and then was recaptured by the Korean police and turned over to the Chinese. The commander of the camp put a gun to Touey's head and threatened to shoot him if he did not write a confession concerning his escape according to Communists' instructions. Touey then was tied and beaten. For additional punishment he was tied with wet ropes and put in the basement of a building for almost two months, being untied only to eat. Despite this horrific treatment, Touey was not deterred from helping others. He would steal food to share with his fellow POWs, and at times was jailed (put in the "hole") for doing so.
Upon his release as a POW, the report of the interrogator included high praise for Touey. His findings read:
"This man is a 'Goldmine.' He has attended Pennsylvania Military School and about 20 weeks of OCS (1948, Riley) and with the background realized the importance of what he saw in N. Korea. He is very intelligent, has an inquiring mind and remembers details well. Knows maps, and with few exceptions, can locate what he saw unerringly. Strongly recommend further interrogation by MI (Military Intelligence) ... and perhaps Tech Intelligence. Interested in army career ... excellent man."
In addition to the Bronze Star medal, Touey also was awarded the Purple Heart; Purple Heart with First Oak Leaf Cluster; POW Medal; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal with 12 stars; Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award; and United Nations Service Medal.
Although he did make the headlines when released, Jack wanted no fanfare or fuss when he returned home; rather, he arrived unannounced by taxi from the airport. It was not long after his return that he met his future wife, Mary Corgan of Kingston; they were married Feb. 5, 1955. Jack and Mary relocated to Buffalo, N.Y., where Jack worked in sales for General Mills; he also attended the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and served in the Army Reserves. But the war was not over for Jack. As a result of his POW experience, he developed health issues that necessitated his return to Kingston. But despite the obstacles and always a survivor, Jack continued to provide for what he most loved and valued: his family. For many years until his retirement, he worked as a controller for Wyoming Auto Sales Inc., Scranton.
Although like most veterans, Jack refrained from discussing his war experiences, he was honored to have been a contributor to the book "Bean Camp to Briar Patch, Life in the POW Camps of Korea and Vietnam," by John N. Powers.
Jack is survived by his wife, Mary C. Touey; his daughter, Maureen P. Thede and her husband, Bill, Dallas; sons and their wives, Michael P. and Gail S. Touey, Dallas; W. Timothy and Judy Touey, Pringle; James P. and Heidi M. Touey, Mountain Top; and Paul Touey and Heather Paffe, Austin, Texas; grandchildren, Travis Touey, Amanda Touey, Mary and Will Thede, Sarah Touey, Ryan and Lauren Touey; stepgranddaughter, Denys Thompson and her husband, Matt, and step-great-grandchildren, Weylin and Winnie Thompson, Porterville, Calif. Also surviving are his sister, Collette Touey Kean, New York City, and numerous nieces and nephews.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his son, John A. Touey Jr.; sisters, Therese C. Kruse, Anne Rita McMenamin and Joan Lake; and brother, Joseph B. Touey.
The family would like to extend special thanks to Dr. D. Michael Fisher, Dr. Kyo Chu, Dr. Rodrigo Erlich and the outpatient and inpatient staffs at Community Care Hospice for the excellent care they provided. Because of their efforts, Jack was able to live a longer and more comfortable life.
The funeral will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday from Maher-Collins Funeral Home, 360 N. Maple Ave., Kingston, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. in St. Ignatius Loyola Church. Private interment services will be held. Friends may call from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.maher-collins.com.
Published in Citizens' Voice from Nov. 29 to Nov. 30, 2012