American Reporter Staff
September 5, 2006
JOHN S. SHEA, JR., A MAN OF GREAT HUMILITY AND MANY ACHIEVEMENTS, DIES AT 95
MONROE, N.Y. -- John S. Shea, Jr., the father of American Reporter founder and editor Joe Shea, a lifelong resident of Monroe, N.Y., died Sept. 5 at 6:10 a.m. at Arden Hill Hospital in Goshen after a brief hospitalization for pneumonia. He was 95.
"I owe to my father my own deep interest in politics and world affairs, a hardy constitution and a country that was improved by his efforts at building a family, working a farm and serving America for 30 years," Joe Shea said this morning. "He was also the funniest man I have ever known, who taught all his children the saving power of laughter. And he was a wise man, both in the way he developed as a person and a father, in his insights into political and world affairs, and in his many prescient investments. We treasured his letters, his advice and his constant stream of quips that never failed to hit our funny-bones. Mireya and myself, and all who knew him, will miss him terribly."
The son of the then-Sheriff of New York County, John S. Shea, and Mary [Alcok] Olcott, John Jr. was born in New York City on January 30, 1911. His mother died when he was just two, and he was raised with his brother Billy by his father, his Aunt Lil and Annie Flanagan Froelich at a family brownstone on the East Side of Manhattan, where his father served as Republican District Leader in the so-called "Silk Stocking District" for more than 44 years.
John was the loving husband of Nina D. Shea of Monroe, who survives him. They were married in New York City on November 30, 1936. Their marriage weathered 70 years of tumult and triumph, and gave birth to the generations of Sheas that followed.
He is also survived by his daughter, Mary Ann Kies of Long Beach, Calif., William P. Shea of Monroe, Ga., Joseph P. Shea of Bradenton, and Patrick O'Farrell Shea of Falls Church, Va., and many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. His eldest son, John S. Shea III, preceded him in death.
John was a career Federal civil servant who began his career with the New York City Division of Elections, the Internal Revenue Service, the state Dept. of Corrections and the United States Air Force, where he served as Deputy Comptroller of the 32nd Air Division during the Cuban Missile Crisis and also as a Single Integrated Operations Plan officer at Misawa AFB on the northernmost Japanese island, Hokkaido, during the Vietnam War, where he prepared nuclear battle plans for the defense of the United States at the command of the President. He also served with the Military Manpower Command of the United States Army after his retirement from the Air Force, and finally as Director of Internal Audit for the U.S. Customs House in New York City, where his father was Paymaster in 1892.
John's grandfather, Patrick Shea, was a New York City upholsterer, and joined the Republican Party in New York after being saved from near death after he suffered grievous wounds at the Battle of Gettysburg, where was a 15-year-old scout for the Confederacy. With five bullet wounds in his face from a confrontation with a Union cavalry officer, he was captured, cared for and then sent by the Union to relatives in New York City. He was to die there at the turn of the 20th Century when he was tossed down a flight of stairs by rioting Democrats. In\ fact, Patrick's son may be the real-life figure who campaigned for Sheriff in Gangs of New York, a movie in which the last spoken words are "Shea... Shea." The family's political history was a point of pride for John Shea.
"My father was a careful and deliberate thinker whose voting pattern underwent a remarkable change in his 80s. He was a lifelong Republican who found himself deeply dismayed by President George W. Bush, and he realized very, very early that the Iraq War was a costly mistake. He always supported the troops in Iraq, of course, and especially his grand-nephew, Lt. Col. Michael Kies of the U.S. Marines, the son of his eldest child, Mary Ann, but he did not support the war. Among his peers - meaning seniors and Republicans - he was virtually alone in that. I was proud of his independence, and I hope I will always emulate it," Joe Shea said.
He will be remembered with love and laughter by his family and many friends as an unfailing pillar of strength and a man of great good humor whose quips, stories and advice sustained all of them through difficult times. He was also an astute investor who was working on Wall Street as a courier of stocks and bonds during the Great Crash of 1929. He served in the latter stages of Wiorld War II in the U.S. Army, and during the Occupation of Germany. He was campaign manager for his brother William S. Shea when the late State Supreme Court Justice first won election to the bench in Manhattan in 1954 - by just 64 votes - in what was the only Republican victory in Manhattan since John's father was elected Sheriff of New York County in 1909. After his father's death, he also served as District Leader in the East Side Republican Club of Manhattan, from which Mayor John Lindsay later emerged. Despite his many accomplishments, he possessed a simple humility, and his deep faith in God was well known to his family. He took great pride in his family's Revolutionary War-era home on Rye Hill Road, which his father purchased from New York Herald Tribune publisher Whitney Reid in 1909. He was living there with his beloved wife Nina at the time of his passing.
Friends may call on Friday, Sept. 8, during the hours of 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Smith, Seaman & Quackenbush at 117 Maple Ave. in Monroe.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Stage Road in Monroe, where he was a lifelong parishioner. Burial will be at the family plot at St. Anastasia Church in Harriman, N.Y.