John Francis Humphrey, adored father and grandfather, decorated WW2 veteran Navy pilot, long-time San Diego business owner, and recent Skateboarding Hall of Fame inductee (!), died peacefully at the age of 92 in San Diego on April 15th with family by his side. Always concerned with others comfort and well-being and with a quick humor, John was a kind and caring father and friend.
Born October 4, 1919 in Waterbury CT, he remembered fondly the family drives and picnics with his parents and two younger brothers in the country, a pastime that stimulated a life long passion for the outdoors.
While attending Northeastern University (NEU) in Boston, John participated in a cadet program that led to him getting flight instruction as the U.S. began preparations for possible entry into WWII. He enlisted as a naval aviator, and was assigned to a PBY Catalina flying boat squadron in the North Atlantic. Before he arrived on station, the attack on Pearl Harbor led to his immediate re-assignment to Hawaii flying PBYs for patrol and rescue where he earned accolades for several dangerous missions. He volunteered to join a new squadron of larger Navy PB4Y Liberator four-engine land-based bombers flying dangerous long-range patrol missions far from land.
John was courageous and innovative and was awarded the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross at a 6/8/45 Patuxent River MD ceremony, for several especially heroic and ground-breaking actions. In one mission he managed to attack and down a Japanese “Betty” light bomber, previously thought impossible with his PB4Y. In another he attacked a small outpost, disabling several ships and aircraft despite strong defenses and several severe equipment malfunctions.
John’s next duty was as a test pilot and trainer of naval pilots in Patuxent River, MD. He married Bette Ann Briggs, whom he’d met during his flight training in Pensacola, in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC on October 10, 1944. After the war ended, the young family moved to Norwalk, CT.
In a bold move, John moved his wife and four young daughters to San Diego in 1959 having purchased a one-employee business. He successfully built it into Custom Box & Packaging Corporation with 50 employees, doing military and commercial specialized packaging for large companies including Convair (General Dynamics) and Rohr, Inc. (Goodrich Corporation).
John enjoyed a lifelong love of Baja, the outdoors, hiking and driving. He took frequent 4-wheel drive and VW Baja Bug trips to Baja and the westerns states with friends and family over many years, in addition to several European trips.
In later years, the LDS church, and his many ministries and volunteer work brought John much happiness and support, along with many new friends. He was an active volunteer with his church. In Chula Vista he was head of the Older Single Adult program, in San Diego he taught Sunday School for adults, was a hometeacher, and worked digitizing records for genealogical research.
On 5-10-12 he was posthumously inducted in to the AISC Skateboarding Hall of Fame as an early manufacturer. He was surprised and delighted to know his Humco skateboards are now collector items.
John is survived by his four loving daughters Anne, Terry, Fran, and Dori, three grandchildren Erin, Laura and Scott, and his brother Edward. John was predeceased by his other brother William.
A memorial luncheon will be held at 11:30 am on Monday, May 21st at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse followed by final placement with military honors at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
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