James Patrick McElhenny Jr.
James Patrick McElhenny, Jr., passed away on June 20, 2020 in Goodyear at the age of 82. He was born in Philadelphia and was a veteran of the United States Navy. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Catherine, and his brother Francis.
Jim was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he attended West Catholic High School and earned a Navy ROTC scholarship to Villanova University. There he met the love of his life, a nursing student named Sue LaRose. They married while he was in flight school in Jacksonville, where his instructors recognized his skills and recommended he join the elite jet pilot program. Because the start date interfered with his wedding date, he declined. The Navy requested he have his head examined. Jim, however, was always clear in what he wanted and did it “his way”. He would not start the first day of the rest of his life with the woman he loved by disappointing her or her family. His love and commitment lead to a wonderful 60 years of marriage.
Jim had a successful 35 year career as a P-3 Orion pilot and was the first in the TAR (Training and Administration of Reserves) program to command a reserve P-3 patrol wing. His commitment to his family, however, was the hallmark of his life. Before each military move, Jim and Sue scouted out the best schools and homes to meet the needs of their children Sharon, Katie, and Jimmy. He attended all of their school programs and sporting events, encouraging and lifting up (and usually videotaping!) his children.
Jim was known for his calm, pragmatic demeanor. No one can remember him raising his voice; it was quiet, measured, and always diplomatic. He did possess a steely eyed look that has been imitated but never duplicated. When he spoke, he held the room’s attention, particularly as a lector at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
Jim was the original jogger, setting a fitness example for all of us before fitness was cool. He challenged his children to continue learning and expanding their knowledge, as evidenced by his extensive library. He was always up for finding the answer to a query, long before there was Google. He celebrated all his children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments, and he made a point of letting them know how proud he was of them.
His retirement continued to be an extension of putting family first. His unconditional and uncompromising love for his children, parents, in-laws, cousins, grandchildren and great grandchildren was on display daily. He garnered the love and respect of all eight of his grandchildren. James, Paul (Wendy) and Joey Arsenault; Conner and Reis Winkeljohn; Chelsea, Caitlin and JJ McElhenny each knew just how proud he was of them. Jim treasured the time he was able to spend with his two great grandchildren Neveah and Ben, time he truly knew as a gift after having survived cancer for 10 years. He never ended a conversation with his family without saying “I love you”
Jim said he lived a life without regrets. He got to see his beloved Villanova Wildcats win the national basketball championship three times. He was a lover of Beefeaters martinis, Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts, Neil Diamond, Don Ho, Hawaii, See’s dark chocolate vanilla creams, and Frank Sinatra. He definitely did it his way, and he was a good man.
He is survived by his wife Suzanne LaRose McElhenny; his children Sharon Pellman (Mark), Catherine Winkeljohn, and James McElhenny; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Funeral mass will be celebrated at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on Wednesday, July 1 at 10:30 am.