In Memory

John Wilbert LaPointe - Class Of 1961

John Wilbert LaPointe

“Following graduation, John attended U.C.S.B. and was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He completed his degree at L.A. State and Officers Training at the University of Southern California. In 1968 he finished Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. A week later he married Melanie Atkinson (class of '62) in Newport Beach and they were blessed with one daughter, Hillary, in 1972.

   “John trained pilots in the T-37 & T-38 for two years at Willie Air Patch in Arizona. He volunteered to go to Southeast Asia and new F-4s out of Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand. Upon returning to the States he was a night instructor at Hollaman Air Force Base in New Mexico in the Fighter Lead-In Program. After 17 months at Hollaman John was selected to fly for the United States Air Force Demonstration Team ''Thunderbirds'' for the 1976-77 seasons. He flew on the Bi-Centennial Team in 1976. They flew more air shows than any flying team had ever flown before.

   “In 1978 John and Melanie moved to Egling Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. John was one of the first pilots chosen to transition to the F-15 Eagle. In l983 he was assigned to the Inspector General's Team at Norton Air Force Base in California. After two years they were relocated to Bitburg Air Force Base, Germany, where he flew the F-15 again.

   “One of John's proudest moments was planning and leading an l8-plane multi-national fly-by for Helmet Kohl and President Reagan. After four years in Germany they relocated to Willie Air Patch. John was the Assistant Deputy of Operations. He was elected for Full Colonel.

 “John retired after serving his country for 21 years and shortly thereafter was hired by the Honeywell Corporation in Phoenix as a Chief Pilot and Manager of Customer Flight Operations/Pilot Training Customer & Product Support. He traveled extensively to Asia, Europe and South America training airline pilots. He worked at Honeywell for 18 years.

   “John and Melanie built their dream home five years ago in Chandler, Arizona. Sadly, John died of a massive heart attack on April 5th after being the first car rear-ended in a five-car accident March 24th. John is survived by loving wife of 38 years; a daughter, Hillary; son-in-law, John Gurley; and the two ''lights of his life grand-boys'' Will (John William) age three and Scotty (Scott Robert) age 19 months.”

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04/12/09 10:25 AM #1    

Joseph P McMahon (1962)

I had not know about John's career until looking at the site recently (April 2009) and found that I had, without knowing it, followed John to Williams AFB for pilot training, then into F-4s in Southeast Asia. I must assume as a USAF Pilot from 1966-1972 I saw John perform with the Thunderbirds. Joe McMahon, SPHS 1966, USAF Academy, 1966.

08/10/09 07:49 AM #2    

Richard C Beals (1962)

I'm so sorry to hear about John's death. I remember seeing him and Melanie Atkinson (class of '62) at I think a 20 year reunion, we were all so proud of him.

And I'm so sorry for you Melanie, what a loss, your High School sweet heart and friend for 38 years.

Richard "Rick" Beals Class of 62

09/08/09 11:46 PM #3    

Nathaniel Hummel (1961)

Thanks to all who work on our sites so we can be informed and pay homage to our friends.

I enjoyed John so very much at SPHS and beyond. While I lost touch with him after graduation, I was delighted to hear later that he had joined the USAF and distinguished himself as a pilot, instructor and a Thunderbird. Fortunately, as he was progressing in his career, I met his older sister Lenore, aka "Nonie" and her husband Jim and their family, living in South Pasadena. I reconnected and was honored to be invited to his and Melanie's wedding at the Newport Beach Yacht Club... with John in full military dress. It was a splendid occasion and more importantly a very happy one for them. It was also delightful to reconnect with Melanie. They made such a great couple. Happy, loving and fun to be with.

When I learned in the last year of John's death, through the SPHS site, I was as touched as if I had seen him just the last week or so... even though it had been quite a while. My heart goes out to Melanie, their children and all who loved him. I wish them peace and healing. And, again, I thank the alumni people who work so hard so that we can keep in cyber-touch with our classmates.
Nathaniel Hummel, 1961
Posted 9/8/09

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