John Henry Sandor of Rockville, MD passed away of natural causes on March 18, 2012 at the age of 97.
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He is survived by his wife Victoria; his sister Martha Smith; three nieces and two nephews. Born in Walsenburg Colorado to Hungarian immigrants Louis and Magdaline Sandor in 1914, John lost his father in a coal mining accident when he was 4, but persisted through the great depression to complete high school in 1932. Undeterred by his family's financial limitations, John hitchhiked to Northwestern University and worked his way through college performing various jobs from bus boy to car salesman, graduating in 1937 with a degree in political science and receiving a commission as Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve Officers Corps.
John subsequently entered flight training and was commissioned Ensign in 1938. He served throughout WWII as a pilot attaining the rank of Captain while performing multiple tasks including instructing at Corpus Christi Texas, photographic officer on the USS Minneapolis, catapult launched reconnaissance flights from the heavy cruiser USS Mobil, and a squadron leader and fighter pilot aboard the carriers USS Bataan, USS Tulgai and USS Kassan Bay. Serving in both the European and Pacific fronts he was an executive officer during the invasions of Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Following the war John continued to serve aboard the USS Leyte as commanding officer of fighting squadron 173. Unfortunately his harrowing escape from a
test flight crash resulted in injuries that ended his flying career and he retired from the Navy in 1947. He returned to his education at Denver University attaining a J.D. degree in 1953 and entered private practice in his home state of Colorado, mainly serving underprivileged/underrepresented clients.
John lost his first wife to a train wreck in North Carolina while serving in 1943, but while traveling in Russia in 1957 he fell in love with his interpreter Victoria and they were married shortly thereafter by an officer of the state. John then embarked on the daunting task of getting her out of Russia during the height of the cold war, a process that took over six months and involved spending several months personally in Russia. Following extensive news coverage and John's persistent requests, including writing directly to Soviet leader Khrushchev, John prevailed. Victoria was granted a visa and they left Russia together in May of 1958.
After traveling through Europe they returned to the states and John accepted a position as assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota, embarking on a career in litigation that focused on the Dairy Industry Unfair Trade Practices Act. This work involved appeals to the State Supreme Court and led to his appointment in 1961 as a trial attorney in the office of General Council in the U.S. Department of Agriculture working under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, once presenting a case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
John also began private practice in the District of Columbia in 1963, working pro-bono on many philanthropic cases including establishment of a housing cooperative to provide housing for minorities in the Shaw area of Washington DC and establishing a non-profit corporation in Washington with adjunct offices in Uganda for the purpose of providing protein minimum needs to people of African nations.
John retired from civil service after 25 years and enjoyed his retirement by sharing time at his properties in Ocean City and Rockville Maryland. He became an avid snow skier late in life, continuing this well after his vision deteriorated from macular degeneration.
A memorial service will be held December 2, 2013 at 11 a.m. in the chapel at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, followed by a full honors burial at Arlington Cemetery at 3 p.m.
Published in The Washington Post on Nov. 7, 2013