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John A. Wisniewski

John A. Wisniewski

No. 1991126 July 1933 - 25 February 1981

Died: New Orleans, LA
Lakelawn Cemetery, Metairie, LA

JOHN ANTHONY WISNIEWSKI, known to his classmates as “Wiz,” was born in Buffalo, NY, to Polish parents and grandparents. Wiz was the son of Edward John Wisniewski and Mary Grabski Wisniewski. His father served in the Army in the late 1920s, and was one of 95 soldiers out of 110,000 selected for appointment to West Point. Unfortunately, he could not pass the physical exam due to an inherited condition of diabetes. He returned to Buffalo, where he became a Probation Officer. He and his wife had four children: Barbara, John, Edward, and Marilyn.

Wiz was an ambitious boy, well respected by his family and friends. He studied hard as a student in a Jesuit high school and, in his senior year, received a congressional second alternate appointment to West Point. In May 1950, he was accepted to the Academy, with a reporting date of 5 Jul 1950. However, he was not sworn in until 26 Jul 1950, his seventeenth birthday, making him the youngest cadet in the Class of 1954.

Wiz loved his time at West Point, where he experienced some of the happiest times and memories of his life. In later years, he often took his family to visit West Point and continued to support the football team, particularly at the Army-Navy game. All four of his children were taught at a very young age to stand at attention with their chins in. His oldest son, John, Jr., later used this skill when he entered the Air Force Academy. Throughout his four years at the academy, Wiz consistently demonstrated his willingness to help his classmates and established himself as a versatile athlete and an above-average student. Wiz was also a Catholic acolyte all four years. His most noted characteristic at West Point was his ability to cheerfully bear any turn of events. Prior to graduation, Wiz selected Armor Branch.

Following graduation leave, Wiz reported to the Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY, to attend the Armor Officers Basic Course. While at Ft. Knox, he met his future wife, Evelyn Jane Thompson. After training at Ft. Knox, Wiz attended Airborne School at Ft. Benning, GA, and volunteered for Ranger School, which he completed in 1955. On 19 Feb 1955, Wiz and Evelyn were married. He was then assigned as a platoon leader in a tank battalion in the 4th Armored Division at Ft. Hood, TX, and, in 1956, participated in Operation Sage Brush in Louisiana with the division.

Shortly thereafter, they moved to Bad Kissingen, Germany, where Wiz was assigned as a platoon leader in E Troop, 2nd Squadron, 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Five of Wiz’s USMA classmates who went Armor were also assigned to the squadron, making for a grand reunion. Every third week, E Troop patrolled the Iron Curtain between West and East Germany. While serving with the 2nd squadron, Wiz was promoted to first lieutenant and given command of the squadron’s tank company.

In 1959, Wiz and his family, which had grown to include a daughter, Sharon, then returned to Ft. Knox to attend the Armor Officers Advanced Course. While attending the course, Wiz underwent an annual physical, which determined that, like his father, he had diabetes. Wiz completed the Advanced Course, but, in 1960, after several weeks of diet and testing, he was informed he would be medically discharged.

After his discharge, Wiz and his family moved to Buffalo, NY, where he took a position as regional sales manager for Westinghouse Electric Company. He also earned an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. During this time, on 18 Jan 1961, Evelyn gave birth to their first son, John Anthony, Jr. Wiz was then promoted to national sales manager and relocated with Westinghouse to Pittsburgh, PA. On 8 Aug 1963, in their living room, Wiz assisted Evelyn in the premature birth of their twin boys, Michael and Mark. After several more relocations with Westinghouse, Wiz took a more stable position with Lutron Electronics in Allentown, PA, as sales and marketing vice president. After a time, this position also began to require travel and relocation, so Wiz accepted a position with the Anixter Brothers as a plant manager in New Orleans, where he lived with his family for the rest of his life. In 1979, Evelyn passed away there.

Wiz was a wonderful father to his four children and immersed himself in their extracurricular activities. He always volunteered to support the children with his time or effort. He often traveled from event to athletic event throughout the day to participate and support each child. He was also an academic role model, providing fatherly motivation for his children to succeed. As a testament to his life, all four of his children graduated from college after his death. His daughter Sharon became a school teacher; his son John graduated from the Air Force Academy and became a Top Gun, a colonel, and a wing commander in the USAF; his son Michael became a major in the Army and was in Iraq when the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down; and his son Mark became the head baseball coach at Brother Martin High School.

On 25 Feb 1981, in New Orleans, Wiz succumbed to lymph node cancer. He is survived by his daughter, three sons, and nine grandchildren. He was a real soldier and a loving husband and father.

— His family and admiring classmates

Originally published in TAPS JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2006

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