Tributes paid to American war hero who stationed in Norwich
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
The family of an American war hero, stationed in Norwich, has paid tribute to the “honourable, noble, and humble” veteran who has died aged 95.
Lieutenant John “Jack” Fay, of California, was 19 years old when he took on the role of a B-24 Liberator navigator and was stationed in the county during the Second World War as part of the US Air Force.
In September 2019, this paper paid tribute to Mr Fay after it was revealed he was just one of a handful of crew to survive a devastating crash.
It came about after his family embarked on a mission to remind him of his love for Norwich after he was diagnosed with bone cancer following a fall.
His son-in-law, Roy Carlson, described him as "uniquely amazing to all".
He said: "Jack did his patriotic duty bravely and his civic duty with honour to his constituents, and he did it all quietly as it was simply expected of him and not something that he thought was special about him.
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"He was a very special man. As a survivor of the war due to the heroics of his plane's captain, I think he did his captain proud by living a meaningful life that positively impacted all he touched.
"To be with Jack meant to be surrounded by good food, good drink, lots of laughter and good cheer. He was well known for his Irish wit and charm, the twinkle in his eyes and just the right words for all who sought his counsel."
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Born on March 15, 1925, in Los Angeles, Mr Fay was a 79-year resident of Ventura County. He graduated from Ventura High School in 1943 and later attended UCLA and Loyola Law School, graduating in 1950. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in February 1943 and went into active service in June after graduating high school.
He served in England with the 466th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force as a B-24 heavy bomber lead navigator and flew 20 missions over Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Battle Stars for the battles of the Ardennes, Central Europe and the Rhineland. He was also inducted into the Caterpillar Club, presented to those whose life was spared because of an emergency parachute jump from an aircraft in February 1945 - leaving him one of two or three survivors.
The crew was flying a mission when the second engine caught fire, forcing them to return to England. The pilot warned the crew not to bail out over the sea as it was so cold they would be unlikely to live. But after thick smoke in the aircraft became unbearable, a few did anyway and did not survive.
Once the plane was above land, Mr Fay and one or two others were able to parachute out, leaving the pilot and co-pilot, who went down with the plane.
Shortly after, Mr Fay was transferred to another US squadron for the rest of his missions and was discharged as a 1st Lieutenant in 1945.
After the war, he met his wife, Marge, at UCLA and they were married in 1948. Mr Fay then practiced law in Ventura for 62 years and served as president of the Ventura County Bar Association.
He was involved with the founding of AARP, which went on to become a huge organisation. He was also mayor of the city of Ojai from 1975 to 1980 and was elected to the Ojai City Council three times, serving from 1970 to 1982. He served as chairman of the Ojai Planning Commission and Ojai City Attorney, was president of the Ojai Civic Association, vice chairman of the Ventura County Association of Governments, and for several decades, he was director and president of the Ventura County Public Facilities Corporation. He also served on the Ojai Tennis Tournament Board of Directors for 35 years.
His daughter Tia Carlson said he was her "biggest cheerleader".
"My dad was everything honourable and noble, but also humble. He was quick to laugh, never judgmental, and always fair.
“He taught me to appreciate a good meal, to be a good citizen and, maybe most important of all, to enjoy a good college football game. He did not, however, pass on to me his love of Scotch whiskey. I shall forever miss him."
Mr Fay died on January 11.
He is survived by three of his four children; Kathie Rea, Nancy Trahan, and Tia Carlson, as well as daughter-in-law Sandy Fay, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Alfred Fay and sister-in-law Louanne Fay.
He is predeceased by his wife, his son Kevin, and his brothers, Harold and Ken.