November 3, 2010
John F. ‘Jack’ McDonnell, father of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, passed away Tuesday morning at a nursing center in Fairfax County. He was 94.
He had been suffering from Alzheimer's for years.
Jack was born in Peabody, Massachusetts on April 15, 1916, the oldest of four children and the son of Irish immigrants. A member of “The Greatest Generation,” he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
During World War II, he served in Thurleigh, England with the 306th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. Jack would serve 23 years on active duty in the Air Force, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1964. He went on to a second career with the U.S. Naval Investigative Service.
Jack married Emma Meiller of Bryan, in Texas on April 8, 1951 at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. Together they had five children, the Governor being the eldest. In 1955 the McDonnell family moved to Fairfax County.
Four years later, Jack was assigned to Wiesbaden Air Force Base in West Germany. After a three-year tour overseas the McDonnell family moved back to Fairfax, where they would remain. The family lived in a house on Wagon Wheel Road in the Mount Vernon area of the county, where the Governor grew up. Mr. McDonnell still owned the home at the time of his passing.
A strong believer in education, he completed his Masters Degree in Education from the University of Maryland after leaving the military. He stressed to his children the importance of obtaining a good education, and all his children graduated from college.
Mr. McDonnell participated in many activities throughout his life as a Sunday School teacher, a little league baseball coach, a regular member of his local Catholic church, a substitute teacher, and a member of the Governor’s Board of Visitors of Mt. Vernon.
Jack McDonnell was a lifelong Notre Dame and Boston Red Sox fan. He had 15 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife in 1994. He will be buried alongside her at Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, friends may honor Mr. McDonnell by contributing to the Emma and Jack McDonnell Memorial Scholarship Fund at Mount Vernon.
Emma and Jack McDonnell Memorial Scholarship Fund
PO Box 110
Mount Vernon, VA 22121