Another great pilot of WWII has “slipped the surly bonds of earth…and touched the face of God.”
John Allyn Raths soared into the wild, blue yonder to meet Jesus in the sky on Feb. 27, 2015. He was 96 years young! This wonderful man was born on May 14, 1918 in Mpls, Minn. He grew up with his brother, Albert, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and he enjoyed a blissful childhood. His family moved several times because of his father’s salesman’s job; but, with his mother’s nudging, John always excelled; and graduated from De LaSalle Catholic High School in Minneapolis in 1936.
In the late 1930s, as war waged in Europe, John enlisted in the Army Air Corps; and after training at several bases, he was assigned to Scott Field near East St. Louis, Illinois. It is there that he met his future bride, Viola Schwartz. In May of 1943 they were married at the base chapel in Columbus, Miss. After a short honeymoon, he was assigned overseas where he flew missions over Germany from Gosfield, England; and later, from liberated France. During all of 1944, and into 1945, he bravely flew 65+ missions as an A-20 pilot with the 410th Bomb Group; 644th Squadron, and he received the Distinguished Flying Cross for safely bringing back his aircraft and crew after his plane had sustained heavy flak damage. According to his two gunners, it was “miraculous” that they arrived back at all, because the fuselage was so badly shot up, including one engine out, (of a 2-engine plane) much of the tail shot away, and a jammed landing gear. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during “D-Day” and the Battle of the Bulge, flying two-a-day missions.
When he returned to the USA, John and Viola started a family and raised their first four children near Lake Minnetonka, Minn. But in 1952, being a printer by trade, John heard of job opportunities at a newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona. Also, he had read that the publisher, Gene Pulliam, was known for his great values. So, tired of the cold, snowbound winters, the family packed up “lock, stock and barrel” and moved to the sunny, growing metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona. They settled in an idyllic neighborhood, complete with canal banks and cottonwood trees, near St. Gregory’s Catholic Church and School, of which they were charter members. In the ensuing years, their family grew to eight children.
John worked in the Composing Room of The Arizona Republic & The Phoenix Gazette for 30 years! Starting out as a substitute typesetter, he rose to the status of journeyman and assistant foreman of his department at a time when the work was tedious, and the ‘type’ was hot lead! For a number of years, John also led the printers’ apprenticeship program, and he was an active member of the Typographical Union for over
Where he also found the time to volunteer as a Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 43, for 25 years, is a good question, because 30-hour days have yet to be invented! But somehow he did it, teaching over 500 boys the tenants of scouting:
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country; to obey the scout law; to help other people at all times; and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
He lived that credo to his utmost every day; and was presented the prestigious Silver Beaver Award for distinguished service to youth of the Boy Scouts of America! Instrumental in motivating his five sons to each achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, he also encouraged his three daughters to participate in Girl Scouts, helping them to excel as well.
A Christ-centered man, John was a member of St. Gregory’s Catholic Church for over 60 years! Alongside his wife, Viola, he raised all eight children in the teachings of the faith, including 12 years of Catholic education each. John was actively involved in the Holy Name Society, the Desert Pilgrims, the Eucharistic Ministers, the Men’s Club, the SG Bowling League, SG and BCHS Bingo, the Lectors ministry, the Knights of Columbus #1189, and the Ministry of Care to nursing homes throughout the Phoenix area. He strummed his guitar and sang praises to the Lord with many senior citizens. He also helped lead a prayer group during his senior years.
John enjoyed being a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a nephew, an uncle, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. Along with his wife, his 8 children, 6 nieces, 2 nephews, 25 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren, he lived life to the fullest with a great love and vitality that is rare in today’s world! His unshakeable character, his out-standing kindness, and his happy-go-lucky smile made him welcomed wherever he went. Like the famous movie says, this single, wonderful life touched and influenced many other lives. There was always a song in his heart and a lilt in his voice.
Preceded in death by his parents Alfred and Anna; Viola, his wife of 64 years, and his younger brother Albert, John is survived by his eight children, Jean, Bob, Steve, Ron, Greg, Mary Ann, Theresa, and Dan, and their families.
Many thanks also to ChrisRidge Senior Living, Goldwater Assisted Living, and Desert Oasis Hospice for their great love and care for John. May he now rest in the peace of Jesus!