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John Richey

September 19, 2012
The Herald-Star

RICHEY, John E. Jr., passed away in Naples, FL, on Sept. 8, 2012, from natural causes.

At the time of his passing he was a resident of Juniper Village in Naples, FL. His wife, Marillyn Young-Richey predeceased him in 2011.

Known as 'Pop" he leaves a sister, Elouise Gemmill of Indianapolis, IN; two children, five stepsons, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, as well as a grateful nation. John served in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) from 1942 to 1945. Following his military service he flew domestic and international routes for TWA until his retirement in 1980. He was 91 at the time of his death. His ashes will be scattered at sea, according to his wishes. There are no plans for a memorial or a funeral service.

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Young "Jack" Richey was born in Jefferson, OH in 1920 and raised in Steubenville, OH. He attended Miami University in Oxford, OH and was a member of Phi Kappa Tau. Following his graduation Jack enlisted in the Army in 1942. Upon completion of basic training he was assigned to the USAAF as an aviation cadet. Second Lieutenant Richey completed flight training and was assigned to the 385th Bomb Group of the Mighty 8th Air Force.

Returning from a raid having completed a bombing run into Munster, Germany in November 1943, "Ohio Air Force" was making the turn for home when the B17 on its left was knocked out of formation. A moment later, a plane in front of and above "Ohio Air Force" was hit, and Richey was forced out of formation. Before he could rejoin it, Nazi interceptors swooped in and the Flying Fortress was left to fight its way home alone. The Luftwaffe unloaded on the lone airship, launching rockets and hitting "Ohio Air Force" with what they had left. A cannon shell critically injured Richey's co-pilot and flight engineer.

With no help in the cockpit, Richey executed a series of air maneuvers that were characterized by co-pilot Thomas Helman in his extraordinary book "Letters to Hardlife, The Story of Champion B17 Flying Fortress Ohio Air Force" as "an extraordinary panic-fed dive from 25,000 feet to the deck, featuring straight down, throttles untouched, to straight up, violent direction changes and acrobatics like barrel rolls and hammer heads unknown to four engines, taking muscles neither pilot ever had, with stress unknown to tail or wing."

As the pilot and commander of "Ohio Air Force," 2nd Lieutenant Richey earned many service medals and recognition from hometown and statewide newspapers such as the Steubenville Herald-Star, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Stars and Stripes European Theater Daily Newspaper. William McDermott, foreign correspondent for the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, "Richey appears to have a remarkable capacity for leadership. His men are intensely loyal and admitting of his capacities to think fast and act intelligently. They will not talk about the hazardous career of "Ohio Air Force" without slipping in a tribute to their commander. One of them says he likes flying, but would not like to fly with anybody else."

Richey was quoted in the Stars and Stripes as saying, "Just like all B17 pilots, I've always wanted to see what a Fort can do; well, I found out Sunday. That plane did a slow roll, just as if it had been a fighter. And every man on the crew has the bruises to prove it. That's about as evasive as evasive action can get." The crew was officially credited with 12 Nazi kills, a record at the time, with every crew member credited with a kill except the pilot and co-pilot. Even the radio operator, using one gun with a limited traverse immediately above the ship, was credited for a kill. Second Lieutenant Richey was 23 years old at the time.

For his leadership and skill in safely returning his airship and crew to England, now-Captain Richey was awarded the first of 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses. His second DFC came after the successful completion of 25 missions. Following his war service in the European Theatre, Richey was assigned to the Boca Raton, FL Army Air Base as a training pilot. Captain Richey received an Honorable Discharge from the Army Air Force in 1945, and joined Trans World Airlines.

He married Hazel Webb of Lake Worth, FL in 1945 and raised two children, David and Diane. John spent his post-war years as a Captain for TWA, flying domestic and international routes. He retired in 1980. He resided in Boca Raton, FL until Hazel Richey passed away in 1987. In 1989, John married Marillyn Young of Delray Beach, Florida, and they moved to Naples in 1992.

John and Marillyn took full advantage of their retirement years by traveling internationally; taking cruises all over the world, making many new friends, and enjoying their time together. At the same time, "Pop" extended his role of grandfather to the offspring of Marillyn's five sons. At the time of his passing John had 10 grandchildren. One month before his passing he became a great-grandfather to Molly Vreeland of Tampa, FL.

During the mid-1990's they moved to the Villas of Park Shore on Crayton Road, which they both loved very much along with their neighbors and friends at the Villas. John lost his eyesight in his later years and despite the handicap he continued to live a normal life. John and Marillyn continued to cruise, attend military and college reunions, dance recitals, graduations, and holidays with the family until their health issues compromised their independence. They became residents of Aston Gardens in Naples FL in 2006, where Mrs. Young-Richey lived until her passing in 2011.

John Richey was a resident at Juniper Village for the last three years of his life, and the family wishes to acknowledge the fabulous care and dedication of the staff of Juniper Village. At Juniper, he was known as "the sweetest man" by the staff that cared for him on a daily basis. John was an exceptional man, and a humble man, who will be missed. "Pop," have a safe flight home. You earned your wings. For online condolences, visit

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