Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal

So Long Jonny Boy

On New Year's Day, 2015, I got a call from Trish Alexander informing me that Jonny had passed away on the previous evening, 31 December 2014.  Jonny had been real sick for about 5 years ever since he came down with a rare blood disease while at or on the way to his River Rats Fighter Squadron reunion.  He told me afterwards that he had almost died.  At one point I think they had written him off as his internal organs and kidneys were beginning to shut down.  But as he had before, he cheated death again and made a miraculous recovery.  But he had problems ever since then and he got steadily worse, to the point that Trish was becoming his full-time caregiver, and it was taking her over an hour just to get him out of the bed in the morning and get him ready for the day.  It pained me to see him deteriorate this way.  Every time he was in the hospital with yet another bout with pneumonia or another heart issue, I grieved.  I'm sure all in his family did as well.

So it is with a heavy heart that I write this one last post for him.  He was a great guy.  I was so proud of him when he finally made it into pilot training and again when he finished out his Air Force career as an F-4 fighter pilot.  He was like a brother to me and so, of course, I was overjoyed to see him finally doing what he had always wanted to.  And he had yet another close encounter as an F-4 driver.  He lost an engine over the North Atlantic while on his way to Europe.  The engine seized and because of the additional drag, he had to go into burner to keep the airplane flying.  Well, you're not going to go very far in burner, so he made an emergency rendezvous with a tanker, and after some pretty unique and amazing airmanship, was able to limp back to Gander with the tanker virtually pulling him along the way.  Time of useful consciousness in the North Atlantic that time of year was about 15 seconds, so bailing out was not an option for him or his back-seater.

Jonny was a patriot and a great American.  And let me just say he wasn't the only one in the Alexander family.

One of my core beliefs is that every American owes a debt of gratitude and service to this great country of ours.  And believe me the Alexander family has paid their debt.  I am reminded of Jonny's dad, a full colonel in the Air Force, his brother Jim who was killed in U.S. Air Force pilot training, his brother Steve who served in the Army, and finally, Jon's twin boys, Jim and Steve, who both flew in the Air Force, one as a C-130 Aircraft Commander and other a F-22 Raptor pilot, both served in the Gulf War.  I admire Trish for all the care she gave Jonny and for raising those two fine boys of hers, both Air Force Academy graduates.  Yes, the Alexander family has given their full measure of devotion.

I am reminded of the words of Bill Evans, pilot in the ill-fated Torpedo Eight squadron just before he was killed at the Battle of Midway:

"If the country takes these sacrifices with indifference it will be the cruelest ingratitude the world has ever known.”

To Ghost:  Until we meet again, farewell my friend.  I’ll never forget you. Thank you for your service, you truly were a great American.

Jon, the way I remember him, partying at CCK in 1968