John William Gillespie, Jr.
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
of his classmates
United States Military Academy Class of 1946
John William Gillespie, Jr.
John William (Jack) Gillespie, Jr. was born 25 April 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. As a youngster, his life paralleled that of most of his contemporaries. He enjoyed sports and was as excellent runner on the St. Augustines High School track team. One of his fondest memories was participating in the 100-yard and 220-yard dash in Madison Square Garden. After graduating from St. Augustines in 1941, Jack attended St. John's University in Brooklyn for a year before receiving his much-sought-after appointment to West Point in 1942. He found academics more than he had bargained for and was turned back to join the Class of 1946.
Starting over was not much easier for Jack. The academic side of cadet life was a constant struggle, but he managed to survive. His roommate, Bernie Janis, recalled that Jack's perseverance was what carried him through the tough struggles with the Academic Departments. On the other hand, he breezed through all other aspects of cadet life. Bernie Janis remembered that Jack was jovial, humorous, a lot of fun and a warm-hearted person. Jack became a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery upon graduation.
Following the usual basic schooling, Jack's first assignment was to Japan in 1947, where he served in various positions with the 865 AAA AW Battalion. He returned to the States in 1949 and was assigned to the 19th AAA Group at Fort Meade, Maryland. While there, Jack married Helen Louise Lewandowski in Brooklyn, New York on 14 April 1950. From Maryland, the Gillespies moved to Fort Bliss, Texas, where Jack attended the Guided Missile Course. This was followed by a year of instruction in Special Weapons at Sandia Base, New Mexico. From there, the Gillespies traveled to Killeen Base, Texas where Jack was a training officer. In 1955 Jack transferred to the Ordnance Corps. Following the Ordnance Officers Advanced Course, Jack and Helen moved to Germany, where he was assigned to the 12th Ordnance Battalion. Returning to the States, Jack was selected to attend Babson Institute in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where he received his Masters in Business Administration. It was while at Babson that Jack had occasion to renew ties with a childhood friend, Robert (Bob) Walker. The two had been inseparable as youngsters but had only maintained their friendship through correspondence after adulthood. Bob had gone into the oil business and was stationed in Venezuela. In 1958, Bob's wife became ill and returned to the States for treatment in Boston. Their two older children had returned with them and when Bob's wife required lengthy hospitalization, Bob realized that he was in a real bind. His longtime friend Jack and Helen came to his rescue and took the girls into their home for the length of the hospitalization. As Bob recalled: "...and what a blessing that Jack was there to help me. But that was Jack, always there ready to help and lend support." From Babson, Jack moved to the Springfield Armory, Springfield, Massachusetts, where he served as assistant to the Chief, Operations Division, and later, as chief. In 1964, Jack had a short tour to Korea as Chief, Maintenance Division, Camp Carrol Depot. Returning to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland in 1966, Jack retired from the Army on 29 November 1966 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Jack's first venture into civilian life was with the AAI Corporation in Cockeysville, Maryland. He first served as assistant to the president and then as assistant director of manufacturing. In 1973, Jack joined the Dundalk Community College in Dundalk, Maryland as director of Community Services. In 1976 he was promoted to Director of Career Education, a position he held until his retirement in 1985. Jack died on 2 October 1987. He was survived by his wife, Helen, a daughter, Deborah and two sons, John and Robert and his sister Dorothy.
Jack Gillespie was proud of his West Point heritage. He lived by its principles and treasured what it meant to him. He was a loving husband and devoted father. One of the joys of his life was to see his daughter and two sons graduate from college and launch their own successful careers in education, industry and military service. His family was very important to him and he devoted much of his energy to their well being. In addition to being a patriot and devoted family man, Jack was a good and true friend. Bob Walker recalled: "Jack was a friend in the true meaning of the word. He was there when you needed him. Always thoughtful--compassionate to your needs. As you well know, you may meet many, many people in your life and it is truly wonderful when you can say I do have a friend. Jack was and always will be my friend." Jack Gillespie was taken from his family, friends, and classmates just when he had reached that point in his life where he could begin to do the things he had dreamed of all his adult life. That he could not do those things is the world's loss, for who knows what accomplishments lay ahead of him. He is missed by all who knew and loved him. The world is a better place for the relatively short time he was here. He will always be remembered. The Class of 1946 joins his family in saying, "Well Done, Jack; Be Thou At Peace!"
'46 Memorial Article Project and his wife,