John Patrick Hanley was born on March 17, 1934, in Peoria, Ill. to John and Sherma Hanley. He grew up in South Peoria and attended St. Mark’s Grade School.
From an early age, he was driven by hard work and the value of a dollar. John tagged along with his father in Peoria picking parts from old cars before they were scrapped and collecting artifacts from old homes and buildings before the wrecking ball hit.
He always had a fine appreciation for beautiful architecture, stonework, ornamental iron, planes, boats, cars and practically anything mechanical. During high school, he learned the ropes at many old-time Peoria companies — worked the brewery 6-pack line, sandblasting, and layout and ornamental ironwork alongside his father at A. Lucas and Sons Steel.
He loved learning the ins and outs of all these trades. But in his heart, he always dreamed of flying planes.
To be accepted into the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, he needed to complete two years of college. Upon graduation from Spalding Institute in 1951, he enrolled at Bradley University. After completing the required courses at Bradley, he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1953.
He completed his Navy Cadet flight training, earned his gold wings and was stationed at Quonset PointNaval Air Station, R.I. in the VS-39 squadron.
He flew the Grumman S2F, an antisubmarine warfare plane, on flights along the eastern seaboard detecting communist submarines off the coast. He completed tours on the USS Lexington, Antietam and Tarawa in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and learned the fine art of landing on an aircraft deck in high sea swells. He met the love of his life, Shirley Marland in Narragansett, R.I.
After 4 years of active-duty Navy flying, John returned to Peoria to complete his studies at Bradley. He enlisted in the US Navy Reserves in Glenview, Ill. and continued flying with the VS-721. After a couple years, Shirley soon followed him from Rhode Island, and they were married on April 24,1959.
John graduated from Bradley with a master’s degree in civil engineering. Upon graduation, he worked as an engineer at A. Lucas and attained his Professional Engineer license. After decades of hard work and determination, he eventually became President and owner of A. Lucas & Sons.
He always said his success can be credited to his predecessors at A. Lucas — they willingly passed on their sense of high standards and commitment, one to the other. They provided him with the opportunity to spread his engineering wings and realize that his instinct for honest business practices would carry him throughout his life.
John enjoyed collecting and restoring antique cars — especially his 1916 Seagraves Fire Engine. He, along with Shirley, spent many years restoring their beloved historic home on Moss Avenue.
After their children were raised, John and Shirley traveled the world together. For 30 years, they enjoyed spending time together at their home in Saugatuck.
On April 24, 2009, John and Shirley celebrated their 50thwedding anniversary, shortly before Shirley passed away. John dearly missed Shirley after her passing and on March 25, 2022, they were reunited together in heaven.
A Committal of Ashes for John and Shirley was held on March 18, 2023 at St. Clement’s Cemetery. Military rites were presented by the U.S. Navy, and he was honored with a gun salute by The American Legion Post No. 2.