John Richard Sweeney, Sr. – Captain, United States Navy

From a contemporary press report:

Captain John Richard Sweeney Sr., United States Navy, 85, a resident of 2740 Reynolds Drive, died Monday morning, July 2, 2001, at North Carolina Baptist Hospital.

He was born in Keene, New Hampshire, December 5, 1915, the son of Edward C. Sweeney and Olive Smith Sweeney. He was married in 1941 to Mary Frances Myers Sweeney, of Winston-Salem, who survives him. He was a graduate of Keene High School, the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his undergraduate degree with the Class of 1938, and Georgetown University, where he received his LLB degree in 1946.

He was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar. He was a career naval officer and aviator, having served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War when, prior to his retirement, he was in charge of carrier air strikes. He retired from the Navy in 1968 with the rank of captain. He was also a graduate of the Naval War College and received U.S. Naval Jet Transitional Training in Kingsville, Texas; Heavier than Air Training, Pensacola, Florida; Helicopter Training, Pensacola, Florida; and Employment of Nuclear Weapons Training, NTC, Norfolk.  His tours of duty included USS Savannah, Gunnery Department; USS Santee, Air Department Assignments; USS Cape Esperance, Air Officer; Commanding Officer, Fighter Squadron Forty-two; USS Lake Champlain, Commander, Carrier Air Group 4 in Korea; Chief of Staff & Aide, Commander Carrier Division 4, USS Forestal; Commanding Officer, USS Okinawa; Commanding Officer, USS Tolovana; Commander Readiness Attack Air Wing Twelve and Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.

Captain Sweeney was the recipient of several significant awards: Legion of Merit with Combat “V”; Air Medal with Combat “V”; Navy Commendation Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign (1 star); Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2 stars); American Campaign, Korean Service, United Nation’s Service; National Defense Service (1 star); and American Defense.

After his naval career, Captain Sweeney served as the Director of the Aeronautics Commission of the State of New Hampshire for 20 years, from 1968 to 1988. For his accomplishments in the improvements of airports in New Hampshire, Capt. Sweeney was awarded the Federal Aviation Administrator Certificate of Commendation.

Called “Honest John” by his Naval Academy classmates, Captain Sweeney loyally served his country through three wars, flying combat missions off aircraft carriers and serving as a naval officer and serving the cause of aviation in the State of New Hampshire.

During his Naval career, Captain Sweeney was in charge of the testing of the F-4 Phantom Jet (the principal fighter jet bomber of the U.S. Navy) at Patuxent River, Md. and was commanding officer of two future astronauts, Alan Shephard and Wally Sheraw, who, after serving with Captain Sweeney, began service to the space program. Captain Sweeney also assisted in 1956 in the rescue effort of the passengers of the Andrea Doria.

After his retirement as Director of the New Hampshire Aeronautics Commission, he and his wife relocated to Winston-Salem. Captain Sweeney was an avid, lifelong tennis player, after having been a member of the Naval Academy Tennis Team. He was a member of the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. and Forsyth Country Club.

Captain Sweeney was predeceased by his brother, Edward C. Sweeney Jr. In addition to his wife, Nan Sweeney, Captain Sweeney is survived by his two sisters, Margaret E. Sweeney and Dr. Christine M. Sweeney of Keene, N.H.; his four children, Mary Nan Sweeney Moser and husband, Ken, of Winston-Salem, Patricia Myers Foxwell and husband, Steven, of McLean, Va., Dr. John R. Sweeney Jr., Captain USN Ret., of Suffolk, and Martha Gaile Sweeney of Alexandria, Va.; and six grandchildren, Kelly Moser, of Atlanta, Ga., Ashley Moser Veneziano and husband, Joseph, of Valhalla, N.Y., John Kenneth Moser of Charlotte, John Christopher Sweeney of Suffolk, Catherine Rachel Sweeney of Erie, Pa. and Richard Scott Sweeney of Suffolk.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Winston-Salem, followed by a military ceremony and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial gifts may be made to St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, 1975 Georgia Ave., Winston-Salem, NC 27104; The American Diabetes Association, 434 Fayetteville Street Mall, Two Hanover Square, Suite 1600, Raleigh, NC 27601; or the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, 247 King George St., Annapolis, MD 21402-5068.

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