John died peacefully Feb. 7, 2021, after a life of intense interest in the physical world, science, and the improvement of America’s defense capacity. He had a ready smile and hearty laugh, and treasured his Princeton memories and friendships.
Growing up in Casper, Wyo., John came to love adventure. He helped his father prevent their Douglas A-26 from crash landing by Hole-in-the-Wall when smoke started to pour out of the console. Pop the canopy, flaps down, and full power! They sold the helicopter used in the Mexican prison break memorialized in the movie Breakout. His brother picked up the Unabomber hitchhiking.
In high school John won an Ames Research Institute internship, and he placed second in aerospace in the International Science Fair (meeting the Emperor of Japan) and sixth nationally in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Nicknamed “Cowboy,” he joined Dial Lodge. After graduation he worked for McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin Marietta.
Having modified a plane for international aerobatics, John was ranked top 10 globally in extreme aerobatic flying in the 1990s when a competition injury left him a T4 paraplegic. Always determined, John returned to work within three months and to the skies a year later. He won the award for aerospace achievement by handicapped people twice, and gave an inspirational presentation at our 25th-reunion talent show about continuing to fly (https://youtu.be/wIDl-qlei9M). Always the optimist, John got a Tesla Model X fitted with a device to load his wheelchair behind the driver’s seat last year.
Condolences to John’s wife, Anne Jeffery; and siblings Patricia Nichols and Joe MacGuire.