John Henry Harns died December 17, 2019 in Post Falls, Idaho. He was born Sept. 23, 1930, in Evansville, Ind.
As a civil engineer, John’s father worked with the U.S. Corps of Engineers. John’s family lived in several areas in the Midwest and Northeast, winding up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. There he met his future wife and lifelong partner, Patricia Donnelly, while attending Loretto Catholic High School. They “illegally” married in July of 1952 against Navy policy while John was still a cadet in flight training.
Prior to joining the Navy, John spent time as a smokejumper out of Cave Junction, Ore., and as a deckhand on the ore boats plying the Great Lakes. Later in his career as a naval aviator, John straddled the transition from World War II piston engine fighters to the advent of the new jet fighters and bombers. He flew off of 12 different carriers with more than 700 carrier landings, night and day. He fought in the Korean war, the Six-day War and in Viet Nam, logging 89 combat missions.
Through his Navy career he was promoted because of his hard work and natural ability to fly. John was in seven different squadrons and was an executive officer and the commanding officer of the last one. He ended his naval flying career in the venerable McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Just before retiring he built and flew a Baby Great Lakes bi-plane in Hawaii.
Upon retiring he built a home on 44 acres in northern Idaho, then took to building his pride and joy, an F8L Falco, a high-performance, low-wing plane which gave him the thrill of flying fast again and ultimate freedom. He and his wife, Pat, flew all over the country on many occasions in that plane, often back to Sault Ste. Marie and across the U.S. to Florida.
During his post military flying days he maintained a certified flight instructor license. He flew charters and instructed for many years and only stopped flying in his late 80s when the flight surgeons wouldn’t allow it. He received the Wilbur and Orville Wright award for more than 50 years of continuous flying!
John was also active in the Elks of St. Maries, and for awhile, was the emergency management director. He was an active supporter of the Young Eagles, giving many young boys and girls their first taste of flying in his Falco. John was an active member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, helping many members with building projects, test flights of new homebuilt aircraft and aircraft familiarization training.
In 1993, John and Pat moved to Post Falls, Idaho, where they have remained to enjoy the closeness of their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia; children: Thomas Peter Harns, Barbara H. Powers, Stephen Mark Harns and Suanne Harns, Mary Jo Tompkins and Don Tompkins; grandchildren: Forrest Harns, Vanessa Harns Kitchen and Zack Kitchen, Zach Harns, Rosa Powers and Andrew Zeller, Patrick Powers, Heather and Jake McIntire; great-grandchildren: Lily and Sawyer Harns, Lola and Louie Kitchen, Leila and Wolfgang Zeller and Tawny and Corbin McIntire; along with numerous nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, at St. Pius X Parish, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.