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John J. Jarvis Jr, former fighter pilot, dies

John J. Jarvis Jr. grew up in south St. Louis to become a decorated fighter pilot during World War II. He died on July 13, 2012.

Jack Jarvis was a kid from south St. Louis who grew up to become a decorated combat pilot.

His hero was Charles Lindbergh, who had stunned the world in 1927 by crossing the Atlantic alone in his single-engine plane, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Their paths crossed in World War II when Lindbergh became a passenger in Capt. Jarvis' aircraft in the southwest Pacific. When Japanese fighters attacked, Capt. Jarvis was able to escape and fly to safety.

His actions won him the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of two that he earned.

John Jacob Jarvis Jr. died July 13, 2012, at the Missouri Veterans Home in north St. Louis County of congestive heart failure, his family said.

He was 93 and previously lived in Warson Woods.

The first time Mr. Jarvis saw Lindbergh was in February 1928. Young Jack had taken off school to watch Lindbergh fly over the riverfront.

"We got out of school and went to the riverfront with the huge crowd," Mr. Jarvis recalled in a 1999 interview with the Post-Dispatch. He watched Lindbergh fly beneath the Eads Bridge and "wiggle his wings."

The event spurred Mr. Jarvis to become a pilot.

He grew up on Lake Street, the only child of a court reporter and homemaker. Mr. Jarvis graduated from Cleveland High School and attended Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., for two years.

It was wartime and in June 1941 he left school to join the Navy. After 40 weeks in flight school, he emerged a second lieutenant and was soon on his way to the war in the Pacific.

He flew fighter planes and transport aircraft. In 1944, he met his hero, Lindbergh, on the island of Guadalcanal.

Lindbergh had famously opposed the United States entering World War II. Once the war started, he agreed to work as a civilian consultant. He became liaison between United Aircraft Corp., maker of the F4U Corsair, and Marines in the field.

Capt. Jarvis was ordered to fly Lindbergh on part of his tour of Marine squadrons. It was all hush-hush — no one, especially the enemy —was supposed to know that America's hero was in the battle area.

Capt. Jarvis was flying with his passenger when enemy fighters fired at them. Their plane was hit and Capt. Jarvis dove low just over the treeline and flew off to safety.

Capt. Jarvis returned to the U.S. near the end of 1944 and was eventually stationed in California. He became friends with movie star Tyrone Power, who introduced him to Hollywood celebrities. One was Carol Andrews, a starlet and "pinup girl." They were married for about seven years and then divorced.

Mr. Jarvis got a plum assignment as pilot and Naval attache to the U.S. ambassador in what is now South Africa. He met and helped entertain visiting English royalty. He told his family he also had worked for the CIA but never gave any details.

By the time he returned again to the U.S., about 1950, the military considered him too old to be a pilot. He was re-trained as a Marine artillery officer and sent to fight in the Korean War.

After 24 years in uniform, he retired as a lieutenant colonel, returned to St. Louis and started a new career as business manager and director of development at both Country Day School and Mary Institute, which later merged.

He met many of the community's movers and shakers and raised money for a new swimming pool building, library and theater.

In 1978, he again retired, but the nuns at Villa Duchesne High School recruited him as their business manager.

He retired for a third time in 1983. But he remained restless and worked as a real estate agent and then bought and sold antiques with his wife.

His second wife, the former Claudia Mae Tucker, died in 2005.

The funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. A reception will follow from 4-6:30 p.m. at The Highlands in Forest Park.

Survivors include two sons, Jay Jarvis of Glendale and Jeffrey Jarvis of Galesburg, Ill.; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.