Jerome L. Feeley Jr. dies at 89

Decorated World War II Navy pilot was shot down twice, later lived in Cedarcroft and owned a kitchen design firm

March 22, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Jerome L. Feeley Jr., a decorated World War II Navy pilot who later owned and operated a kitchen design firm, died Wednesday in his sleep at a daughter's Parkville home.

He was 89.

Mr. Feeley was born in Baltimore and lived in West Baltimore until 1934, when his family moved to a Guilford Avenue rowhouse.

He was a graduate of the Cathedral School on Mulberry Street, and Calvert Hall College High School in 1940, where he was an outstanding basketball and football player.

Mr. Feeley was awarded a scholarship to what was then Western Maryland College and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art.

In 1943 he enlisted in the Navy, where he first learned to fly Piper Cubs at Marshall College in Huntington, W.Va., and then attended preflight school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He later completed flight training in Dallas, and at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

Mr. Feeley, a Corsair fighter pilot, was assigned to Carrier Air Group VF-85 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La, CV38, in the Pacific theater of operations.

Mr. Feeley, who flew 85 missions, was shot down by enemy Japanese fire twice.

His decorations included two Gold Stars, three Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

One of his cherished wartime souvenirs was the clock from his Corsair, which he kept on his office desk until his death.

After the war, he remained in the Navy Reserve and was based at Anacostia Naval Station in Washington until being discharged with the rank of lieutenant.

After World War II ended, James V. Forrestal, then secretary of the Navy and later the nation's first secretary of defense, wrote to Mr. Feeley of his wartime service.

"I want the Navy's pride in you, which it is my privilege to express, to reach into your civilian life and remain with you always ... for your part in these [wartime] achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live," he wrote.

After the war, Mr. Feeley returned to Baltimore and civilian life and attended what is now Loyola University Maryland at night, while working during the day for United Clay Building and Supplies Corp.

He later went to work for Stylewood Kitchens Inc., where he had been general manager and vice president. He later founded Plastic Products, a Formica business, that Bob Lambert, a brother-in-law, managed.

In 1975, Mr. Feeley established Feeley Kitchens Inc., a kitchen design firm, where he was one of the first dealers in the area to market and sell Corian countertops manufactured by the DuPont Co.

He closed the business and retired in 1990.

The former Northwood resident, who moved to Cedarcroft in 1958, had married his childhood sweetheart, M. Margaret Evans, in 1944. Her father, George T. Evans, was a well-known funeral director with Charles F. Evans and Sons.

Since 1998, Mr. Feeley had lived at Oak Crest Village in Parkville with his wife, who died in 2008.

"He never talked about World War II until he was in his 80s. He had blocked it out like so many others. After the war, he came home and put that segment of his life away," said a daughter, Kathleen F. O'Hanlon of Parkville.

Mr. Feeley became interested and participated in reunion activities of former crew members who had served aboard the USS Shangri-La.

He was an avid lifelong golfer and had played at Mount Pleasant, Pine Ridge, Long Green and other area courses. After moving to the Parkville retirement community, he continued playing with an Oak Crest golf group.

Proud of his Irish heritage, Mr. Feeley was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

He was a devout Roman Catholic and began attending Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in 1959, the year it opened. He served as a lector and sat on many committees, including the Heritage of Hope, for nearly 40 years.

At Oak Crest, he served as a Eucharistic minister.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the chapel at Oak Crest Village, 8800 Walther Blvd.

Also surviving are two sons, Jerome L. Feeley Jr. of Manhattan, Kan., and Patrick Feeley of Pensacola; two other daughters, Mary Ellen Brennan of Hampstead and Sharon F. Crook of Lutherville; a brother, Paul J. Feeley of Timonium; three sisters, Sister Kathleen Feeley, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and former president of Notre Dame College of Maryland, who now lives in Ghana, Therese M. Feeley, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who lives in Rodgers Forge, and Bernadette Rouse of Lutherville; 16 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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