Waltham, PA - Mr. John C. Dunbar, of Waltham, died Monday, December 30, 2013 at the Leland Home in Waltham. He was 94.
John was born in Braddock, Pennsylvania on July 25, 1919, the only child of the late John A. and Gertrude (Holden) Dunbar. He was raised in Braddock and earned his Bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1941. In September of that year he joined the United States Army Air Corps.
Following the outbreak of World War II John was assigned to the 39th Fighter Squadron and following state-side training on the new P-38 'Lightning' he was sent with his unit to the Pacific. Based out of New Guinea he flew one-hundred fifty-one missions with the 39th before returning home to become a training officer.
At the start of the Korean War he was called back to active duty to train other pilots before being discharged two years later as a major at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
In 1945 John met the love of his life, Irene L. Murphy of Cambridge, at a USO dance. They were married for sixty-one years until Irene's death on June 3, 2010. In 1953 John and Irene moved to Waltham where they raised their family and had been residents since.
In 1946 John earned his Master's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after the war began flying for Pan American Air Lines, then one of the largest airline companies in the world. His career at Pan Am was short lived as he was hired away by MIT's Charles Stark Draper Labs in Cambridge.
Working as a test pilot at Draper Labs he had a front row seat to twentieth century aviation history. His began his piloting career flying bi-planes for the civil air patrol and before its end he'd piloted some of the most sophisticated planes in the world including airliners, bombers, jet fighters and helicopters.
John's work at Draper also brought him into the NASA family where he worked on the Gemini and Apollo space missions as well as projects for the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle program. His work with astronauts was routine and he was proud to have piloted a Chinook helicopter that developed the prototypes for the landing sequencing and propulsion for the 'Eagle'; the Apollo 11 capsule that landed men on the moon for the first time in July, 1969.
He was the rare breed that was able to combine brilliance with humility; a true team player helping to achieve some of the greatest accomplishments of his generation.
At home John was equally busy. He was active with the Boy Scouts, having been an Eagle Scout and longtime Scoutmaster of Troop 265 at Saint Mary's Church in Waltham. He belonged to Saint Mary's Holy Name Society. An accomplished musician, he was also a member of the American Theatre Organ Society and the Reagle Players in Waltham.
He was also long active with the 39th Fighter Squadron Association, attending almost all of the outfit's reunions, including the event held in 2012. John also belonged to the Order of Daedalion, an association of military pilots.
John was also accomplished with a set of tools and used them well. He built and donated the white arbor at Saint Mary's Church and created thousands of woodworking gifts for his children and grandchildren from furniture to toys to doll houses to an exact replica of the White House that had been displayed at the Kennedy Center.
Through it all, and especially in the twilight years, John's devotion to his family was limitless. When Alzheimer's claimed his beloved Irene for the last seven years of her life John never missed a daily visit to be with her and loved her to the end.
As an only child whose mother died when he was just twelve; as a child of the Great Depression; and as a warrior in the sky John never let adversity defeat him. His gift of life, legacy and love will be treasured by the family who mourn his passing but glow with pride at being a part of him.
He leaves his children, John M. 'Mike' Dunbar and his wife, Elizabeth, of Worcester, Charles K. Dunbar and his wife, Sarah, of Milford, New Hampshire, Kathryn A. Hines and her husband, Terence 'Ted', of Waltham, David A. Dunbar and his wife, Barbara, of South Windsor, Connecticut, Lorraine 'Lany' Ciccone and her husband, Paul, of Lexington, Jane E. Edwards and her husband, Jay, of Londonderry, New Hampshire and Stephen W. Dunbar and his wife, Cheryl, of Franklin; his grandchildren, Sean, Kimberly, Megan, Brian, Peter, Tim, Terry, Jeff, Tim, Julie, Lindsey, Kristen, Cassie, Stephanie, Kelly, Jen, Jake, Allison, Matthew, Brian and Sean; his great-grandchildren, Britton, Carinne, Dominic, Hannah, Brooke, Rowan, Jackson, Noah, Donny, Caiden and Connor and several nieces and nephews.
John was also the father of the late Mary Dunbar.
Family and friends will honor and remember John's life by gathering for calling hours in The Joyce Funeral Home, 245 Main Street (Rte. 20), Waltham, on Sunday, January 5th, from 2 to 5 p.m. and again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning before leaving in procession to Saint Mary's Church, 133 School Street, Waltham where his Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Burial will follow in Grove Hill Cemetery, Waltham.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 480 Pleasant Street, Watertown, MA 0247