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John Hipolyte Tschirhart passed away peacefully on the morning of October 25, 2016 at 95 years old, just 2 months shy of his 96th birthday.

He was born to Arnold Tschirhart, a World War I U.S. Army veteran serving in France, and Lucie Tissot, a young French woman, on December 30, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas. Five months later John and his mother return to France to John's mother's hometown of Ervy-le-Chatel, an idyllic little village nestled on a hill of the French Champagne region.

John would live the next 18 years uneventfully and carefree on a farm in Ervy-le-Chatel with his seven French-born brothers and sisters, oblivious to his American citizenship and to the gathering clouds of World War II.

Working as a bookkeeper at an oil refinery in Saint Dizier in 1939, John falls in love with a young French girl, Malou, as Hitler's army races across Eastern Europe, invades Belgium and threatens France. In June 1940, as German tanks begin rolling into Saint Dizier, John and his young love flee to the relative safety of Paris.

John's and Malou's bliss would be short-lived as the Nazis take full control of France and suddenly John's American citizenship becomes a dangerous issue as the Germans are arresting foreigners and sending them to labor camps.

In February 1941, after a couple of close calls with German patrols and after the U.S. urges Americans to repatriate immediately, John is forced to leave the love of his young life behind and joins the hordes of refugees fleeing south to Spain and Portugal and seeking safe passage out of France.

Finally, with only a few words of English in his vocabulary and even fewer dollars in his pocket, John miraculously arrives in his native San Antonio and goes to live with his grandmother, Louisa Loesberg -- but not for long.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and when the U.S. enters World War II, John -- loyal to his birthplace -- joins the U.S. Army Air Corps, trains as a B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombardier and, in 1943, Lieutenant Tschirhart, the "French Lieutenant," is assigned to the 305th Bombardment Group in Southern England.

After flying 35 combat missions over German-occupied Europe, which included flying over France and dropping letters and roses for Malou, a few days after the Allied invasion, John rolls out of a landing craft onto the Normandy beaches as an Army Intelligence Officer and makes his way to Paris in hopes of finding Malou, but only to find that Malou has died during the war.

A recipient of the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his combat duties, John is assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) as a psychological warfare officer before returning to the U.S. to serve his final military tour of duty at Scott Field, Illinois. Many years later, John is also presented with La Médaille du Jubilé for his participation in the Normandy campaign and the liberation of France by the Governor of France's Low-Normandy at a ceremony in Austin,Texas. More recently, he was also awarded title of Knight in the French Order of the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest distinction, for his World War II service on French territory).

In December 1946, John leaves active military service as a Captain and joins the Active Reserves. He then attends the Radio Television Arts Academy and embarks upon a 15-year career encompassing acting, screen writing, producing -- a career that takes him from Hollywood to Europe and back to Hollywood.

In 1961 John returns to government-military related work in public information, education and radio and television broadcasting -- assignments which take him back to combat zones in Laos and Vietnam and eventually to Libya in 1969 where he sets up an English language-training program for Gadaffi's officers.

While in Vietnam and working as an Advisor to the Ministry of Information and Education in Saigon, John marries a young Vietnamese girl, Vo Thi Ngin who joins him in Libya after the birth of their daughter Lucy in May 1969.

After returning to Texas from Libya in 1970, John and Vo Thi Ngin divorce. Subsequently, John dedicates himself to raising daughter Lucy, completing his Reserve duties at Fort Hood, Texas, and to producing a screenplay and eventually a movie about Malou.

In 1984, John retires from another career in civil service, moves with his daughter to Austin and immerses himself in the quest to produce "Malou," but still has time to educate Lucy, to involve himself in community affairs and local politics, to become a member and historian at Post 4443 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and, last, but not least, to collect, organize and document his amazing life history and that of his ancestors. A history that goes back to 1844 when John's great- grandfather, Nicholas Tschirhart I, immigrated from Alsace, France, to Texas and, with Henry Castro and hundreds of other French immigrants and pioneers, established the town of Castroville.

It is in and around Castroville where the Tschirhart family flourishes and grows to the point that at a recent Tschirhart family reunion over 800 Tschirhart extended family members attended. The most recent arrivals being John's parents repatriating to the U.S. in 1946 along with all seven of John's brothers and sisters.

John is preceded in death by Jenny Padilla his youngest sister, brother-in-law George Weidmann; his maternal grandparents, Hypolite and Maria Tissot who rest in Ervy, France, his parents, Arnold Tschirhart and Lucie Tissot who rest in Castroville, Texas, alongside his fraternal grandparents, Nicolas Tschirhart and Catherine Meyer, and many other Tschirhart relatives.

John is survived by his beloved daughter Lucy and her husband Trey Sheffield, grandson Brooks Brinkman, sister Jeanne "Nenette" Tschirhart, sister Lucette Weidmann, brother Henry Tschirhart and his wife Janice, sister Jacqueline Pailthorp and her husband Ormond, sister Suzanne Stanfield and her husband Calvin, brother James Tschirhart, niece Rejane Tschirhart, niece Danielle Carter and husband Floyd, ex-wife Lynn Asbury and Sgt. Major Ron Asbury and son John Paul Tschirhart.

John lived an incredible life. His early military service, his government service and his years as a private citizen were filled with adventure, excitement, and as the "Frenchman" himself would say, "joie de vivre."

As part of the Greatest Generation, his military days were devoted to duty and country as his record, awards and decorations reflect. His film, "The French American" was not completed prior to his death as hoped, but producer Darla Rae of Film It Productions in Colorado will keep her promise to John to find financiers and produce the film.

Through all things, John's passion and love for his daughter, his family, his friends -- especially veterans -- community and country never wavered. John was a God-fearing man and no stranger to tragedy and setbacks. In 2002, John's beautiful, two-story home burns down to the ground destroying most of his possessions and forcing John to jump for his life from a second-story balcony. Undeterred and with God's help and renewed faith in Him, John rebuilds his home, but this time, John makes it a one-story house, so that "next time I won't have to jump so high," he jokes.

John will be remembered as a loving father, a patriot, an immensely talented, cordial and generous man, a friend for life -- a hopeless romantic.

The family will receive friends from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M., Sunday, November 13, 2016 at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home. At 1:00 P.M. family and friends will meet at the VFW Post 4443, 7614 Thomas Springs Road for a Dedication Ceremony with a formal procession from the VFW back to Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Chapel to Celebrate John's Life. Interment will follow with U.S. Air Force Honors at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like contributions to be made in John's memory to the VFW Post 4443, 7614 Thomas Springs Road, Austin, Texas, 78736, (512)288-4443, www.vfw4443.org.

Please share your thoughts and memories with the family at www.cookwaldenforestoaks.com.

Arrangements under the care of Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home, 6300 West William Cannon Drive, Austin, Texas 78749, 512-892-1172
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Nov. 6 to Nov. 7, 2016
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