John Harvey Lester
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Joel Gartenberg on May 13, 2019:
Life before West Point
John joined the Army on January 23, 1959. Earned the Parachutists Badge, Expert Rifleman�s Badge, and Good Conduct Medal. He entered the USMA Preparatory School at Ft Belvoir, VA, in 1961, where prep school classmates remember him as a friendly and helpful person and very proud paratrooper.
Significant achievements and activities as a cadet
Various classmates remarked:
"John was a great guy, one who led and inspired by example. He was airborne all the way, but was never a screamer... always in control of himself and the situation. He was devoted to Marilyn, and it was a joy to be at his wedding as an usher."
"John was in E1 and my most indelible memory is his soldierly appearance and bearing....was Company Commander for one stretch...was always a helpful friend."
"John lent me his Corvette during part of June week after my new car was stolen in NYC shortly before. I was touched by that then as I remain so today."
"I just knew him slightly, but remember him...as a very positive guy, solidly built...and very proud of his airborne wings."
"John Lester was a more mature member of our class and our gymnastics team....was a solid cadet who set a great example for others. He was also a gifted athlete whose positive, cheerful and humorous approach to our sport was inspirational to us all. ...I looked up to John...Not only did John give me inspiration, but we also built a great friendship and friendly rivalry....I remember the spirit of friendly competition fueled by John�s competitive drive and his amazing sense of humor. In addition to setting an example of hard work and determination to excel in gymnastics, he was constantly looking for the next practical joke to play on any one of us who might present an opportunity. He also motivated his fellow gymnasts to strive to do better than what they thought was their best."
Assignments and achievements in the military
Following graduation and a branch assignment in the Infantry, John served with 3/187 IN, and 197 Lt Inf Bde, RVN,
Marriage and children
John married Marilyn at the Catholic Chapel at West Point on June 9, 1966. They have two children: John and Bill, who is named after classmate Billy Flynn, John�s best friend who was killed in Viet Nam.
Retirement or separation from the military
John separated from the Army in May 1971, and began work for Motorola in Phoenix, AZ, where he worked until 1980. He then worked for Fairchild in Palo Alto, CA, until 1983 when he joined Aerojet Electronics in Azusa, CA. While there, he completed his MBA, which he deferred while raising John and Bill.
Important activities in civilian life
John was a dedicated Dad, and was there for John and Bill when they were growing up: he helped coach little league and soccer and served as their scoutmaster. He also helped them with homework, school, and scout projects.
Anecdotes and quotations
John�s sister, Faye Lynn, recalls that she and John were raised during the post WW II era with a very close and loving extended consisting of aunts, uncles, and cousins living nearby. The extended family celebrated birthdays monthly and ushered Christmas in with a Christmas Eve family gathering. As children they had showy, upscale clothes and playthings. "We never knew how great we had it. John wore a custom made overcoat, a hat that matched his dad's, and mittens with his initials. We attended various cultural classes for music and the arts. I think the one thing that stands out about our childhood was John's shot at acting. He debuted as Tiny Tim in the Phoenix production of A Christmas Carole. He was maybe 5 and very sick on the night of the performance. Our mother insisted that the show must go on and John did his lines, but was in bed for about week after recovering from the flu."
Classmates recalled: "His airborne ties got us into a lot of trouble with our gymnastics coach, Tom Mahoney, over Christmas break in '62. John talked me into going out to the airfield for several sky diving jumps. My 20 minute jump school was: 10 minutes on how a chute is packed; and 5 minutes on how to put it on; 3 minutes on how to pull the rip cord on the emergency shoot if the main doesn't open; and 2 minutes on how to jump out the door. As I recall, we made 2 or 3 jumps"
"John was a great companion on the trips we made to compete at other colleges because he had more experience and was older than most of the rest of the team, he always knew what we should do and where the best restaurants were. He was always sharing his knowledge of the army and life with us while looking for opportunities to "help us learn" through exposure to his practical jokes. John was a good man with a heart as big as a mountain, and an attitude that made others want to emulate him."
John was a very optimistic person and always looked for the good in people. When things went differently than planned, he would say it�s OK: "When God closes one door he is opening a better door for us." John was very people oriented and sought good in them instead of emphasizing their faults. Marilyn and the boys learned much from him and his outlook on life. When his family thinks of John, they reflect on the great human being, great father, and great husband he was, and thank God that he gave John to them for as long as he did so they could all learn to be better people from him.