Harold Allen John 1935 - 2021

Harold Allen John passed to his rest on June 22, 2021, with his wife of 64 years by his side, at their home in Portland, Oregon.  After nearly 86 years, Harold was ready to be with his Lord and “find the peace that passes all understanding.”

Harold was a very charismatic man who never let a stranger leave without becoming a friend.  He loved kids, sports, dogs and a good book.  He was a lifelong student of history.  He was all about family, driven to provide a better life for his children and to set an example of what can be accomplished with discipline and love.  He always made time to attend his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events and cheer them on.  Harold never backed down from the truth and from doing the right thing.  Of his many gifts, Harold is most treasured for being loyal and kind.

Harold was born  August 10, 1935, in Hendley, Nebraska, to parents Delpha and Harold “Curly” John.  He vividly remembered singing for WW II war bonds on the back of a flatbed truck when he was just six years old.  He tended a Victory Garden and donated his rabbit furs for the collars of the flight crews, a connection to the Air Force that would continue in his adult life. A lifetime sports enthusiast, Harold was a bat boy for the Oakland A’s.  He went to all their games and relished meeting Jackie Jensen, who later played for the New York Yankees.  Despite many injuries and illnesses in childhood, Harold grew up to become an accomplished athlete.  He lettered in basketball and baseball at McMinnville High School in 1953, and was awarded an athletic scholarship to Linfield College, where he also lettered in basketball. Harold enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 and became a radar intercept controller at the height of the Cold War.  He worked at remote bases as far away as the Arctic looking for unknown aircraft with long-range radar.  

Harold loved to tell the story that he won $700 playing poker at the base, which he promptly used to buy his fiancee her wedding ring.  Harold married Gloria Key on June 15, 1957.  He joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 1961 as an air traffic controller in California. 

Harold accepted his first Chief’s position in 1974 at the Air Traffic Control Tower in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and was subsequently promoted to Chief of Tower at Moses Lake, Washington, which was the biggest Boeing aircraft training base in the world.  While there, Harold rode in the new Concorde Air France airplane, which flew at Mach 1.2, an unprecedented speed for a civilian aircraft. Harold graduated from Central Washington State College in 1976.  In 1977, he was promoted to Chief of Center and Approach Control at Balboa in the Panama Canal Zone, managing U.S. related air traffic in Central and South America.  When Jimmy Carter arrived in Panama to turn over the Panama Canal, Harold and several coworkers spotted and documented a UFO, an event he always remembered.

In 1978, Harold was promoted to the Chief of Tower at Portland International Airport. Four days after he started his new job, a United DC-8 ran out of fuel and crashed in Gresham.  Only 10 passengers out of 180 died. Harold said “When I got the call, I immediately thought everyone on board had been killed.  It was one of the most fortunate acts of God I have ever seen.” During the Air Traffic Controllers strike of 1981, Harold stayed in a motorhome at the airport to manage the crisis.  When President Reagan ordered all striking air traffic controllers to be fired, Harold had to carry out the difficult task of terminating many good employees, including controllers who followed him from Panama to work under his fair and disciplined leadership.  In 1982, he was promoted to Terminal Division Chief and moved back to Seattle, managing 11 states.  After retiring from the FAA, Harold joined the Washington, D.C. based firm SRSA, working as an air traffic training consultant internationally.  He retired having touched every continent except Africa. Harold had an active retirement, traveling widely to Europe, Germany with his son, Rick, and the Middle East, including Israel.  He spent his time enjoying golf, gin rummy, his grandchildren and snow-birding in Arizona.  

Harold was preceded in his spiritual journey toward eternal life by his grandson, Gabriel, Tony’s third-born son.  Harold is survived by his wife, Gloria; his sister, Joretta; his brother, Joe (Linda); his children, Rick (Kathy), Tony (Sharon), Jim (Darla), and Julie (Paolo); 14 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. There will be a memorial service at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 8, at the Chapel of Macy & Son in McMinnville. Private family interment with military honors will take place at the McMinnville Masonic Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be sent to the Oregon Humane Society.  To leave online condolences, please visit www.macyandson.com


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