In Loving Memory

John Charles Yearwood, d. September 9, 2008



November 19, 1920 – September 9, 2008 In Loving Memory.
Lt.Col. John Charles Yearwood, (USAF ret.), 87, died Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008 at his residence in Spanish Fort, Alabama, after a brief illness.

A native of Ellaville, Ga., he was raised in Macon, Ga., the youngest of five children born to the late Claude H. and Margaret Worthy Yearwood. He is survived by his two sons, John C. Yearwood, Jr. and spouse Stephenie of Beaumont, Tx. and by Thomas L. Yearwood and his spouse Lisa of Fairhope, Al., and by his five grandchildren, Josie, Stephen, Claire, Amy and Anna Yearwood. His nieces and nephews include Renee Bennett, Howard Wilcox, Claude Yearwood, and Peggie P. McKinley of Macon, GA, Col. Ann Cottingim (USAF) of Panama City, Fl., Patricia Brock and Jim Carithers of Jacksonville, Fl.

A career Air Force officer, he was a command pilot with thousands of hours in fighters, bombers, and heavy transports. After retiring from the Air Force in 1969, he and his late wife, Lorraine Carithers Yearwood, moved to Hawaii where he was employed as a trust officer with Hawaiian Trust Company and was executive vice president in charge of the Maui branch. After retiring from his job in Maui, he moved to Woodville, Tx. where for 23 years he and his wife lived in the lovely home he built and engaged in a small ranching operation. A member of the Rotary Club in Maui and in Woodville, he lived his whole life by the Rotarian motto of “Service above Self.”

In addition to Rotary, Col. Yearwood was a member of the Woodville United Methodist Church for 23 years and sang bass in its choir, a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Beaumont following Hurricane Rita, and most recently a member of Spanish Fort Presbyterian Church in Spanish Fort, Alabama. A Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary, he was also an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church. He served on numerous county and civic committees while in Woodville, including a long-time tenure on the board of the Allan Shivers Library. Together with Rotarian friends Jiggs Kennesson, Jay Rabuck, Malcolm Radford, Fred Sullivan, and others, he helped erect the “Welcome to Woodville” signs at the entrance to the city and to build and maintain flower boxes along Woodville streets. He was frequently called upon to speak at Veterans Day and Memorial Day services and to present the annual Toast to Texas Independence. A deeply sincere patriot, he was proud of his descent from Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, but was absolutely committed to the freedoms and principles of the United States.

Graduating from high school two years early, he left home at 15 to support himself and his family during the deepest years of the depression. He was gifted with an insatiable desire to read and would often play hooky from school so he could sneak into the Macon courthouse to watch the lawyers arguing with one another. He took a room in the basement of a gasoline station, where he worked part-time, because it was across the street from the Macon library, and over the next four years while working fulltime at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store he set about reading every book in the library. This began a life-long habit and up until two weeks before his death he was still averaging about three books a week. With his amazing eyesight, even in his late 80s he was reading without glasses. And he enjoyed regaling visitors with the stories he had read or remembered from his eventful life. After entering the Army at 18, he transferred to the Army Air Corps and finished cadet training as World War II was starting. Always enamored of really large engines and with a sense of freedom, it was natural for him to gravitate towards airplanes. He flew the P-40 and then served as a pilot instructor in that aircraft, transferred to the B-25 at the end of the war when he was stationed in the South Pacific. He was one of the thousands of pilots who participated in the Berlin airlift, flying the Douglas C-54 Skymaster along the narrow corridor that brought freedom to that besieged city. He was a sort of modern Odysseus whose world-wide trips to exotic ports resulted in uncountable treasures. From Cairo he brought home camel saddles, from India he brought home brass trays, from Tripoli he returned with sandalwood boxes, and so on around the world. A veteran of WWII, he served in Germany during the Korean conflict and was with CINCPAC in Hawaii during Vietnam, in charge of personnel in Burma and Thailand. But even decades after retiring from the service, he would always turn to the sky when he heard the propeller of an airplane overhead, and follow its flight until he lost it. In his 81st year, standing in a hayfield, he leaned on his pitchfork and listened as the familiar sound of a C-54 flew overhead towards its home in Harlingen. “He has all four props perfectly tuned,” he noted with a smile, “a good pilot.”

Funeral services will be held at the Woodville United Methodist Church, 508 W. Bluff, Woodville, Tx., at 11 a.m. on Sat. Sept. 20, 2008 by arrangement with Stringer and Griffin Funeral Home of Woodville, Rev. Tommy Williams will officiate. In lieu of flowers, the family request that memorial gifts be directed to the music ministry at Woodville United Methodist Church or to the Allan Shivers Library.

Local arrangements are by Hughes Cremation & Funeral Service.


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