On Wednesday, December 30, 2020, John William Beard passed away peacefully at the young age of 102. John had many names, including Bill, Beanie, Bones, Captain Midnight, Iron Duke, Lieutenant Colonel – but his favorites were husband, father, and more recently, Grandpa. John was born in Southside, West Virginia, on December 21, 1918, to John Calvin Beard and Elizabeth Williamson Beard. His parents died when he was young, and by the time that he was 8 he was an orphan living in the Odd Fellows Home in West Virginia.
In 1940, John enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and was trained as an aircraft mechanic. When the country needed more pilots, the Army sent him to Sergeant Pilot school where he earned his wings. He was deployed to Egypt and piloted a B-25 with the 12th Bomb Group flying close air support for the British 8th Army. After completing his second tour of 35 combat missions, he received a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant, and then captain. By the completion of World War II, John had flown a total of 105 combat missions in the B-25.
When he returned to Texas after the war, John helped a young woman with her suitcase on a train in Texas, and the rest was history. John married Gwendolyn Robertson in 1946. John stayed in what was then the Air Force flying tactical and test aircraft. Interestingly, he was the pilot for the top-secret Fulton recovery system, making five live pickups. His military awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross (with one oak leaf cluster), Air Medal (with nine oak leaf clusters), European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with four stars, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with one star, and the American Campaign medal.
John retired from the Air Force in 1965 and settled in Shalimar, Florida as a broker for AG Edwards. By that time, John and Gwen had three children, John (m. Janet A. Nussbaum), Scott (m. Denise Sansing), and Kerry (m. Steve Meyer), all of whom survive him. In 1996, he finally became a grandfather when his granddaughter Callie Beard was born to his son John. Gwen died in 2019, and will be interred with him.
Somewhere along the line, John developed a knack for poetry. He not only wrote his own, but had the ability to entertain his friends and family with lengthy recitations. His was a “made for YouTube” delivery, and he delighted in the videos of his poetry posted on YouTube. Just this Christmas Eve he gave the residents and staff of the Meridan at Westwood a special treat when he recited "My Christmas Eve" by Trooper Bob Welsh (see: . https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1074979706298862). He once said that his favorite poem was “Drinking From My Saucer”, and that just about describes his life:
“I'm drinking from my saucer, Cause my cup has overflowed.” John was a member of the Quiet Birdmen and the Crispy Warriors. This Quiet Birdman is now silent, but he will long be remembered by those who loved him.
For those wishing to celebrate John’s life, a visitation will take place from 3pm to 5pm on Monday, January 11, 2021 at Davis Watkins Funeral Home, 113 Racetrack Road NE, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 32547. The internment will take place the following morning at Barrancas National Cemetery.