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Colonel (Ret.) John S. Finlay, III passed away peacefully at his home on Sunday, October 30, 2011. John was born on June 29, 1927, in Monticello, IA, to the late Jack and Helen Finlay.
He graduated from Sidney Lanier High in 1944, then received a BS degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland in 1949, and a MS degree in Bacteriology from Ohio State University in 1953.
John married Carolyn W. Finlay, June 3, 1949, and they raised three children, Carol Ann, John IV and Robert (deceased). They lived in numerous countries, to include France, Germany and England, before relocating to Satellite Beach, FL in 1968, and their current home in Indian River Colony Club, Melbourne, FL in 1989.
John enlisted in the US Navy on October 25, 1944 and served as an Aviation Radioman aboard PBMs and PB4-Y2s until being discharged on June 28, 1946. He was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force on September 16, 1949, received his pilot wings on April 29, 1954, Instructor Pilot status in December 1955, and had numerous other assignments during his 27 years in the USAF. John flew T-33, T-39, F-84F, F-100D, and F-4D trainer/aircraft.
One of the highlights was when John served as Commander, 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Hahn AFB, Germany during the transition from F-100D to F-4D aircraft. Afterwards, John volunteered for Vietnam, so he brought his family back to reside in Satellite Beach, FL and was reassigned on January 28, 1968 to the 366th TFW at DaNang, Republic of Vietnam. On April 28, 1968, while leading a flight of three F-4D Phantom Jets, John was shot down and held as a Prisoner of War at the well-known "Hanoi Hilton" until all POWs were released on March 14, 1973.
Upon his release, John was assigned to the Eastern Test Range, Patrick Air Force Base, FL, as Director of Range Support until his retirement at the rank of Colonel on August 31, 1975. John went back to work April 28, 1980 as a Senior Engineer for Planning Research Corporation (PRC) and as Senior Engineer for Lockheed at the Kennedy Space Center, FL until 1990.
His awards include: Silver Star (1 Oak Leaf), Legion of Merit (1 Oak Leaf), Distinguished Flying Cross (1 Oak Leaf), Bronze Star (with Valor), Purple Heart (1 Oak Leaf), Air Medal (3 Oak Leafs), Command Pilot Wings and numerous others.
John is survived by his loving wife, Carolyn, of 62 years; and their children, Carol Ann of Sevierville, TN and John IV and his wife, Marie of Cary, NC; and his two grandchildren, John V of Raleigh, NC and Brian of Fayetteville, NC. He is also survived by his brother, King and wife, Ginny of Quakerstown, PA.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made out to:
or Civilian-Military Community Foundation, P.O. Box 3, Cocoa Beach, FL 32923-0003.
A Memorial Service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA, at 11:00 a.m. on June 29, 2012 (John's birthday).
Beckman Williamson Funeral Home - Viera
5400 Village Drive
Viera, FL 32955
Published in FLORIDA TODAY on May 20, 2012