Cover photo for Commander John A. Fahey's Obituary
Commander John A. Fahey Profile Photo
1923 Commander John A. Fahey 2024

Commander John A. Fahey

April 23, 1923 — January 28, 2024


A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00am on Monday, June 10th, with family visitation timeframe from 9:30-10:00am at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville.  The military burial with honors will follow at Arlington National Cemetery at 3:00PM, arrive by 2:45. 

John Augustine Fahey, formerly of Virginia Beach, Virginia, passed away peacefully on January 28th, 2024 at the amazing age of 100 at the Charlestown Retirement Community, Catonsville, Maryland.  John was born on April 23rd, 1923 in Medford, Massachusetts, the eldest son of John and Delia Fahey. His three younger brothers, Paul, Joe and Tom preceded him in death. John was married to his beautiful wife Barbara for 75 years before she died in 2021. If you asked John what was the luckiest day of his life, he would say that it was the day he married Barbara. In fact, John himself wrote, “The most extraordinary events of course were the marriage in 1945 to a wonderful 19-year-old girl, Barbara Ann Haag, the births of my children, and living long enough to see them mature into adulthood and live successful and good lives.” 

            John had two remarkable careers, first as a Naval Officer, and then as a teacher and college professor. During World War II he flew long patrols as a combat airship commander, escorting merchant vessels through the shipping lanes, landing airships on aircraft carriers and retrieving downed airmen from the sea to a blimp. After the war, John, who was also qualified as an interpreter and translator of the Russian language, served as the Director of the U.S. Navy Language School where he was responsible for preparing Naval Attaches in foreign languages before they were posted to embassies throughout the world. From 1960-1962 John was assigned to the United States Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) to collect intelligence on Soviet Forces in Germany. He wrote about his experiences in Licensed to Spy, one of six books he wrote and published.

John retired from the Navy as a Commander shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which he was also involved, and began a long teaching career, first at Cox High School followed by Norfolk Academy, and finally Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he taught Russian and served as the Chairman of the Foreign Language Department. John won numerous teaching awards at ODU, and many of his students went on to work for the federal government in sensitive intelligence positions.  He was truly a remarkably bright person whose stories would enthrall his audience. John was inspired by many of his Navy Commanding Officers who were his mentors and guided him when he was a young Naval Officer just out of his teens during WWII. He was also inspired by his students, both high school and university, and said that he learned as much from them as he taught them.

 In addition to his military and teaching careers, John was a member of the Virginia Beach City Public School Board for 9 years and considered himself a “maverick,” always fighting for what he felt was right for the teachers and the students. In fact, one of his books is titled, Maverick on the School Board. He collaborated with his son on the Maverick book and also on presentations they gave on memory techniques, techniques which John continued to teach to Charlestown residents.  John was also a proud Rotarian. He was President of the Virginia Beach Rotary Club and as a past Rotary International District Governor provided counsel to 57 Rotary Clubs. 

            Seeming always to be in the right place at the right time, John met three Presidents before they became President. Gerald Ford coached him in football at the Navy Preflight School, and later when he was President, Ford placed him in the White House Talent Bank. John met John F. Kennedy from 1959-1960 when Kennedy was a Senator and beginning his campaign for President. John was Director of the Navy Language School at the time and brought students to meet the Senator.  In 1975 John met Jimmy Carter when he was campaigning for President.  He spent an afternoon chatting with Carter while other local Hampton Roads politicians were more interested in talking to their old political friends from nearby cities. Although he never met Robert F. Kennedy, John served as his Virginia Beach Campaign Chairman in 1968.

John was an avid Boston Red Sox fan his whole life, although as a child he attended the National League Boston Braves games because he was admitted free as a member of the Knot Hole Gang, a program established for poor boys. He was proud to hold membership card number 1. 

Another passion of John’s was photography. Before retiring from the Navy in 1963 as a Commander, he won first place in the 1962 All-Navy Photography Contest and continued to pursue this interest throughout his life. John and his wife Barbara, who was also a wonderful watercolor artist, loved to display their work at art shows all over the state of Virginia, and they both won many prizes.

            When John moved to the Charlestown Retirement Community in 2010, he continued his passions of photography, writing, and teaching. John hosted over 250 one-hour programs on the Charlestown TV Station and also taught classes at the Elderhostel’s Lifelong Learning Institute. He continued to teach even when he was in Assisted Living.  In fact, his last class was just in October of 2023. John made many new friends at Charlestown and continued to keep in touch with lifelong friends as well. He was always appreciative of everything his family and friends did to support him throughout his amazing life.

John is survived by three children:  daughters, Kathy Fahey Counts (Steve) and Barbara Fahey DeBoy (Jim) and a son, Dr. John A. Fahey (Virginia). Grandchildren include: Mark DeBoy (fiancé Delaney Hayward), Jody Fahey Agnew (John), Jessica Fahey Welte (Brody), John E. Fahey (Sarah), Tage Counts (Diana) and Nicole Counts Angle (Pete). Great Grandchildren include: Chase Counts, Kacey Counts, Lilly Agnew, Jack Agnew, Isabelle Agnew, Will Agnew, Jonah Welte, Asher Welte, Phinn Welte, Evie Angle, Shep Angle, and Natalie Fahey.

Many thanks to the caregivers at Charlestown for the assistance they provided throughout the years, and his many friends there, especially Gwen Munzer. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Charlestown Benevolent Fund or to a charity of your choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Commander John A. Fahey, please visit our flower store.

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Monday, June 10, 2024

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