John Patrick Gaffney
Virginia Beach - John Patrick Gaffney departed "into the wild blue yonder" on September 26, 2013, after a blessed life of 93 years. A native of Akron, Ohio, Jack and Jan, his wife of 63 years, attended St. Vincent High School, and were residents of Virginia Beach since 1965. Jack had a distinguished career in the United States Air Force
, serving as a pilot for numerous aircraft including the B-24, B-25, B-29, B-47, KC-97, C-47, T-28, T-33, and T-34. A veteran of WW II and the Vietnam War
, his military decorations include the Air Medal, Bronze Star
, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, World War II
Victory Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
A true Jack of all trades, Dad could build or fix anything, and most of his projects were labors of love for his children: playhouses, rabbit hutches, wind tunnels with real smoke, erupting volcanoes, and Soap Box Derby cars. His children also benefited from his passion for all things aeronautical, being introduced at an early age to the delights of model rocketry, boomerangs, kites, hot air balloons, and remote-controlled model planes. After 29 years of active duty, in 1971 Dad continued to wear Air Force blue as a Junior ROTC Instructor at Indian River High School in Chesapeake where he was fondly referred to as "the Colonel." In addition to his role as aerospace educator, he announced Indian River's basketball and football games for 30 years, and became known as the Voice of the Braves. He was honored as Teacher of the Year in 1985 and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Virginia Interscholastic Athletic Administrators in 2007.
After retirement, Dad continued to serve as a lector at the Naval Amphibious Base Chapel and was a docent at the Air and Space Museum in Hampton and an active member of the Tidewater chapter of the Air Force Association and the Irish American Society. He taught himself to play the organ, enjoyed his travels with Jan, and cherished his Irish heritage.
Living his life according to the Air Force motto "Aim High," Dad was a man of integrity, character, honor, and wisdom. An inspiration to many, especially his children, he changed the world more than he knew or would admit. His legacy to us is that he modeled how to be a devoted husband, father, and caregiver, and how to accept hardships with tremendous courage and faith. He is our hero.
Dad was predeceased by his loving wife Jan in 2012, his parents Patrick and Ellen, brother Stephen, and sisters Margaret Gill, Helen Tribley, and Elinor Liquori. He is survived by his four children, Becky Jones of Virginia Beach, Jeff (and wife Vicki) of Chesterfield, Tim (and wife Ginny) of Hampton, and Cathy Miners (and husband Larry) of Norwalk, Connecticut, and ten grandchildren, Maddy, Mariah, Draden, Sawyer, Casey, Eryn, John Patrick, Hannah Mae, Hilary, and Zach.
The family thanks Nancy Marchand for her tender care of "Papa." Dad told her that she was his best friend, and her loving devotion is an inspiration to us all.
A funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, Virginia Beach, at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 12. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial donation to the Indian River High School Air Force Junior ROTC Program, 1969 Braves Trail, Chesapeake, VA 23325. Interment with his beloved wife Jan will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.