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J. Robert Derry

1923-2017

Published: March 29, 2017 12:00 AM

The morning paper lies unread. The reader, J. Robert Derry, died Saturday, March 18, 2017, in his home.

He was born March 3, 1923, the son of Lawrence R. and Florence Derry, of Barnesville, Ohio.

He was a graduate of Barnesville High School, salutatorian of his class. He attended The Ohio State University until February 1943, when he volunteered in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He trained as a pilot, graduating as a second lieutenant and trained further as a bomber pilot in a B-17 bomber. After having flown 13 bombing missions in the 15th Air Force into Germany, he and his crew had to bail out from a crippled plane into northern Italy. Fortunately, his crew was found together by Italian friendly partisans, but Lt. Derry was captured and turned over to Germans, who took him up to a prison camp in Nuremberg, Germany. After two weeks, he and all the prisoners were marched to Moosberg, Germany, (near Vienna) prison camp, where they were liberated by American soldiers on May 15, 1945. He had lost 25 lbs. After rehabilitation in France, Lt. Derry and other prisoners of war were placed on a ship, which docked in New York. By train, he returned to Barnesville, Ohio.

On June 15, 1945, Lt. Derry married Jane Mitchell, of Columbus, Ohio. After extended leave granted to a former prisoner of war, Lt. Derry returned to The Ohio State University, completing his degree in 1947. He worked for the Borden Company in various positions, including three years as president of Borden's Puerto Rico Dairy (with his family) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He then moved to Pittsburgh. He and his family later moved to Indiana, buying and running the Culligan Water Conditioning Company until his retirement in 1987.

Mr. Derry was always very much involved with his community. He headed the campaign to build the YMCA of Indiana. He worked tirelessly for the United Way of Indiana County and other community activities, as member (and year as president) of the Rotary Club and the V.F.W. Appointed to the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, he also served as its director and retired after more than 10 years serving the state of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Derry loved hunting birds in the fall with his Brittany spaniels, and fishing in the streams and Lake Erie. He played tennis until his age would not permit, was a golfer, and was a member of the Indiana Country Club and the V.F.W. His play of duplicate bridge, taught at an early age by his parents, was much pleasure throughout his life. Mr. Derry was a voracious reader. He said, "Like Thomas Jefferson, I could not live without books."

Mr. Derry was predeceased by his wife, Jane; his brother, Bill Derry; and Mr. Derry's son-in-law, Jesse Miller.

He is survived by a sister, Jan Catherwood, of Titusville, Fla.

Also surviving are his three children, Richard Derry and wife Loreen, of Homer City, Lynne Miller, of Indiana, and Susan and husband Jeff Blouse, of Milton, Del. He has grandchildren from Richard (Paul Derry and Bob Derry); from Lynne (Amy Miller and Laura Champion); and from Susan (Katherine Blouse and Eric Blouse). Great-grandchildren include: from Bob Derry (Ryan and Julia Derry), from Paul (Samuel Derry), from Amy (Sophia Miller), and from Laura (Ashlynn and Avery Champion).

Arrangements have been entrusted to the Bowser-Minich Funeral Home, Indiana.

Family and friends will be received at a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 1, at Graystone United Presbyterian Church in Indiana.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Indiana Free Library or the Alzheimer's Association in loving memory of his wife, Jane.


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