World War II veteran honored at St. John Parish

 

COLLINGSWOOD — He was born in Philadelphia but his family moved here when he was 6 and his whole life has revolved around this community and St. John Church since then.

John Shirk, a veteran of World War II who flew 26 missions over Nazi territory, turned 90 on Jan. 2. He was feted to a party on Jan. 15 at the Collingswood Community Center with some 150 family and friends present, including Msgr. Roger McGrath, vicar general of the Diocese of Camden, and Collingswood Mayor James Mealy Jr., who issued a proclamation from the borough stating that Shirk “should be applauded and acclaimed for his dedicated service to the town….”

Bishop Joseph A. Galante extended his wishes to Shirk on his 90th birthday in a letter that was read at the party by Msgr. McGrath. “I know you are a man of great faith and strong character, that your generosity and loving heart are an inspiration to all who know you,” the bishop wrote.

Msgr. M. Joseph Mannion, the parish’s longtime pastor, said Shirk was a valued parishioner and “an inspiration to all of us.” He noted that Shirk gave generously of his time to serve the parish in many ways over the years.

Shirk’s son, Stephen, said that his father attended St. John School and both Camden Catholic and Collingswood high schools, later receiving an associates degree in engineering from Drexel University.

After World War II he got a job with New Jersey Bell, Stephen said, and bought a home on Lees Avenue where he and his wife raised four boys. Stephen pointed out that his father did much for his church and community, including helping neighbors with parking issues in the borough, with trash and leaf problems, and even using his lunch hour on many occasions to take his boys and their friends to a ranch for horseback riding and returning after work to pick them up.

Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. and Norm Sooy, director of Veterans Affairs, congratulated Shirk in a letter for receiving the Camden County Military Service Medal which is awarded for honorable service.

Also sending letters of commendation were former Gov. Jon Corzine and Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Robert Andrews.

Lt. Col. Al Bancroft, USMC (Ret.), director of military affairs, commended Shirk for his “meritorious and honorable service to the United States of America.”

The Collingswood resident retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1973 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. During World War II he was a member of the Army Air Corps. Bancroft said that Shirk, during that war, participated in the European Theater, Central Europe, Rhineland, and Ardennes campaigns. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), European-African Middle Eastern Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

 

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