1934 - 2021
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John Fearnsides   "Jack" (Age 86)  
Died on January 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. He was born in Philadelphia, PA on May 28, 1934 to Samuel and Mary (nee Mulderig) Fearnsides. He is survived by his wife, Margaret Jenny, his step-children, Nicholas Sednew and Katja Sednew, and his nieces, Melani Jaffe and Mia Payne. He was preceded in death by his sister Judy Flynn. The cause of death was Leukemia. After serving in the Army as a cryptology specialist, Jack earned a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. He held numerous positions in the Ford and Carter Administrations, including Deputy Undersecretary of Transportation, before leading the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development at the MITRE Corp. He was a member of the Cosmos Club and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. An avid reader and lover of music, especially jazz, Jack had an uncanny memory for facts, figures, and thousands of song lyrics. He loved baseball and supported his Phillies through thick and thin. Extensive travels took him to all 50 states and six of seven continents. He has left an indelible mark on aviation while touching the lives of countless people, who will remember him as a mentor, a brilliant strategist, and a leader who rose from humble beginnings but never forgot his roots. In lieu of flowers, Jack asked that you support Doctors Without Borders or Capital Caring Hospice. Due to the pandemic, there will not be a memorial service at this time.

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Published in The Washington Post on Jan. 16, 2021.
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Memories & Condolences
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8 entries
March 9, 2021
Jack was more than a colleague during my time at FAA. He was a mentor and most of all a good friend. He was a shoulder to lean on during hard times and always had a practical and creative solution to seemingly complicated problems. He was without a doubt the most optimistic, most upbeat person I have ever known. Deepest sympathies to Margaret and his family.
Joe Del Balzo
Joe Del Balzo
March 9, 2021
I just saw his obit in the Wash Post today Mar 9. I worked with Jack at the Dept of Transportation. He was a brilliant engineer and I considered him a friend.
Greg Haugan
February 5, 2021
It was my genuine honor and pleasure to have met Jack and worked with him and his talented team at MITRE on Chinese aviation, air traffic control and airspace management while I was at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The breath of his knowledge was immense - he truly was a giant in the field, yet he was a kind and unassuming gentleman, eager to share that knowledge. My deepest sympathies and condolences to his family.
Deborah Semb
January 28, 2021
How can I ever not remember Jack?-- the glint in the corner of his eye as he laid out his plans for you, the energy & passion with which he pursued his goals and the sheer intellect that he brought to bear as he sought to unravel his latest mysteries. During my tenure at MITRE, Jack was fond of checking in with me to be sure that his CAASD was providing my legal team and me with interesting challenges--. Jack did indeed keep us on our toes--- he brought so much creativity and keen insight to all that he did. My deepest condolences to Margaret and to all Jack's family.
Sol Glasner
January 17, 2021
I loved Jack....he was my friend.
Carolyn Clark
January 16, 2021
He was my great friend and colleague for over 50 years and we colaborated on some great engineering studies going back to the Apollo and Skylab missions of the late 1960s/1970s and up to the advances in Air Traffic Control/Management and Modernization that sadly still do not reflect his vision today. And many do not realize that Jack pioneered the whole notion of "smart automobiles" and "smart road/highway" traffic control. Regarding Jack's knowledge of song lyrics, he could even sing the entire version of Groucho Marx's "Lydia, The Tatooed Lady". RIP, my friend!
Bob Ravera
January 16, 2021
Thanks for everything, Dr. Fearnsides: your talent, your leadership, your *caring*.
Mark J. Rockman
January 16, 2021
So sorry to hear about Jack’s death. He (and you) helped make my MITRE experience a good one.
Emily Beaton
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