BEACON FALLS — John Andrew McGeever, 96, passed away peacefully at home in Beacon Falls, on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 in the company of his beloved wife of 62 years, Gloria (Morcaldi) McGeever.
A lifelong Connecticut resident, Mr. McGeever was born Sept. 6, 1919 in Waterbury to the late John A. and Edith (Bronson) McGeever. John attributed his remarkable age to the loving and dedicated care by his “New Haven Gal” Gloria.
Mr. McGeever hails from the Bronson family, who were among the first to settle the Naugatuck River Valley during the Colonial era of the 1600s. John took a special pride in his family’s pioneering contributions to the foundation of not just our nation but also the many towns throughout the Naugatuck River Valley. None of these towns was more dear to John than his beloved Beacon Falls with its magical hills, streams, deep forests, and majestic animal inhabitants that John fought hard to conserve and protect.
To fulfill this mission John engaged in public service to many state and community organizations including the Connecticut Farm Bureau, Connecticut Horse Council, the American Legion, the Beagle Club of Beacon Falls, Republican Town Committee, and Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, and High School Building Committees.
John regularly answered the call to serve his state and local community in more exciting ways and served as an auxiliary Connecticut state trooper, volunteer fireman with Beacon Hose Co. #1, and town constable police officer.
Of all his civic acts, Mr. McGeever was most proud of his involvement in the creation of the Pent Road Recreation Complex. John volunteered countless hours to the project, sculpting the former sand pit with his tractor to help transform it into the tennis courts and ball fields still used by residents today. A consummate outdoorsman, John’s expertise was sought out for many such public works. He was also called upon when Mr. Bernard Matthies reached out to him to be the liaison for the donation of what would become Matthies Town Park, a 300-acre wildlife preserve.
John’s initial call to public service came at a young age when, much to the chagrin of his sisters and mother, he dropped out of American University to enlist with the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1940. Little more than a decade old, the Air Forces promised immediate action in the European theater piloting the most advanced and novel aircraft of the time – The Supermarine Spitire.
A standout cadet, John was commissioned a second lieutenant in the regular U.S. Army and was selected to travel in 1942 to England, where he joined the 5th Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Group, known pejoratively as the “Spittin Kittens.” This elite group of American pilots was hand selected from the best officers in the best training units. These men were to learn fighter tactics from the British RAF, serving ultimately as the first American pilots to taste combat in the European and Mediterranean theaters.
Lt. McGeever flew missions into Europe out of Londonderry, Northern Ireland and Goxhill, England. He participated in the invasion of North Africa, also known as Operation Torch. John flew dozens of sorties from the Rock of Gibraltar, supporting ground forces entrenched in battle with the forces of the “Desert Fox,” German Gen. Erwin Rommel. A true daredevil and warrior, John was distressed when a non-combat injury crippled his leg and forced him to hang up his wings prior to the invasion of mainland Europe and conclusion of the war. John spent years recovering from his injuries and though his wounds never fully healed, John’s spirit and zest for life resurged stronger than ever.
As a newly minted civilian. John resumed his education and graduated from Quinnipiac College. He then served as a division chief for the State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Upon his retirement he further pursued his interest in politics and served as a member of the Connecticut Republican State Central Committee. Mr. McGeever served the GOP for decades and summed up his political career in a 1987 front page story in the Evening Sentinel that chronicled his political career, “I’ve had a lot of great experiences working on all sorts of political campaigns for local, state and national elections, and I will treasure my memories.” Highlights included the sweeping 1983 Naugatuck Valley election victories in Ansonia, Derby, Shelton and Seymour as well as his service as a delegate to the Republican National Nominating Convention in Texas, where he nominated President Ronald Regan for re-election to president in 1983.
In retirement John resumed his romance with the sky by embarking on a hot air balloon tour of then communist Poland in 1985. Mr. McGeever set upon this adventure to assist longtime friend Harvey Hubbell in the production of a PBS documentary honoring Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko — a Pole renown as a hero of the American Revolutionary war.
Though an inveterate adventurer and traveler, John always returned home to the sleepy Connecticut farm town he held so dearly. Even in his 80s Mr. McGeever remained active, and frequently could be found tending to the horses and fields of Rimmon Hill Farm in between jaunts to Long Island Sound where he regularly fished for Blues from his Boston Whaler.
Most of all he enjoyed sharing good food and talk with family and friends around the kitchen table, eating Gloria’s homemade treats and most famously her home baked bread. Indeed, his magnetic personality, twinkling blue eyes and quick wit made him an easy companion throughout his many adventures. Though he will be sorely missed, John lives on in the memories of his friends and family who were fortunate enough to be part of his majestic life.
John is survived by his loving wife Gloria Morcaldi McGeever of Beacon Falls; daughter and son-in-law, Josepha McGeever Brusznicki and George Brusznicki of Beacon Falls; son and daughter-in-law, John and Katherine (Lynch) McGeever of Kensington; and sister, Barbara Madden of Cheshire. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Christopher Brusznicki and wife Maureen (Smithe), Joseph Brusznicki and wife Elizabeth (Lewicki), John Andrew McGeever VI, and Clare McGeever. John was blessed to have known his six cherished great-grandchildren, Evelyn, Christopher (Mack), Ava, Vivian, Joseph (JJ), and Benjamin Brusznicki. He was predeceased by his two sisters, Martha Bronson Reilly and Dorothy Mayer Thurston.
John always found time for people and although he loved to talk, laugh and have fun, he always listened and had the ability to empathize and advise from the heart. John’s final wish was to send his love to his family and friends.
Memorial contributions may be made to Fisher House Foundation, P.O. Box 97229 Washington, DC 20077-7804. www.fisherhouse.org/ways-to-give
There are no calling hours. Burial is at the convenience of the family. The Miller-Ward Funeral Home, 260 Bank St., Seymour, is caring for the family.
To light a virtual candle and leave online condolences, visit www.millerwardfuneralhome.com.