- January 26, 2011
John A. Crimaldi
John A. Crimaldi was born on January 14th, 1930 in Bayonne, NJ, and died in his sleep of natural causes on July 23, 2021 in Boulder, CO at the age of 91. Throughout his life, John constantly told-and repeated-stories, some of which were true. This is a brief (and true) story of his own life.
In his youth, John was a lifeguard in Monmouth Beach, NJ, and played football in high school. He attended Seton Hall University and then the University of Missouri before enlisting as an officer in the United States Air Force because he hoped to fly jet fighters. He completed his aviation cadet training program at Webb Air Force Base in Texas, where he learned celestial navigation and received his pilot wings.
John flew 53 missions in the F-86 fighter jet in the Korean War, where he served with a number of people who ended up in the U.S. space program, including James McDivitt and Buzz Aldrin. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading three missions into North Korean airspace. He was flying an F-86 when he witnessed No Kum-sok defect to Kimbo Air Base in South Korea with a coveted Russian MiG-15. The MiG now resides in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB. Forty years later, John was able to talk with No Kum-sok, who had been granted asylum in the United States.
After his military service, John became a commercial airline pilot. During the Vietnam War, he ferried US troops and supplies to and from Da Nang on contracted commercial airplanes. On a long dark night across the Pacific, John tried for hours to radio his old flight leader James McDivitt, who was at that moment orbiting overhead as the commander of the Gemini 4 space capsule. Although John’s messages were not received, McDivitt later reported to John that the astronauts had indeed heard a number of air traffic radio communications.
John flew for a number of airlines throughout his career, including Pan American, Frontier, Northeast, Trans Caribbean, and American Airlines. He logged over 20,000 hours of flight time in the DC-3, DC-6, DC-8, 727, and A300 aircraft. When being trained to fly the A300, he spent an extended period at the Airbus facility in Toulouse France. Naturally, he used this time to explore many French vineyards. John retired from commercial aviation at age 60 per federal regulations. Even in retirement, John maintained the mannerisms and precise language of a professional aviator, and many of his friends continued to refer to him as “Captain.”
In the thousands of flights he piloted, John had the opportunity to meet a number of famous people; this was something that gave him pleasure and served as fodder for his stories as he grew older. He often recalled when professional basketball teams (who did not in those days have their own team planes) would take over the first-class cabin and would use their long arms to play cards on the floor of the aisle while sitting in the window seats. One of John’s proudest moments was when Colonel Charles Lindbergh visited him in the cockpit and shared some of the celestial navigation duties while flying over the Atlantic.
John was a lifelong sailor, who owned a series of ever-larger sailboats throughout his life. John and his first wife Louise (now Louise Lewis, who lives in Exeter, NH) spent large portions of their summers sailing the coastline from New York to Maine with their two children. Towards the end of his career, he intentionally flew trips from Boston to St. Thomas, where he kept a Valiant 40 sailboat and spent time with his second wife Maruta Miluns (who lives in Longboat Key, FL). Throughout his life, John owned a number of performance rowing shells, and rowed them constantly though the waters near his homes in Rye, NH and Longboat Key, FL. John was an expert skier who visited most of the famous resorts in the U.S. and Europe, often with his great friend Robert (RJ) Holland. He was an avid tennis player and golfer, and he made a multitude of friendships through these activities with people in New Hampshire and Florida. True to form, he was still playing golf-and driving to and from the golf course- up until 6 weeks before his death.
John spent the last five years of his life at the Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, where he was known for his constant athletic activities and storytelling. In old age, he struggled to remember people’s names, but it always seemed that everyone knew his.
John liked little more than watching a beautiful sunset with a nice glass of wine. He would invariably chastise anyone nearby who was not watching the sunset, saying, “you never know if it will be your last one.”
John is survived by his daughter Christine Crimaldi (who lives in Mountain View, CA with husband Pat Scandalis and children Jasmine and Violet), son John P. Crimaldi (who lives in Boulder with wife Mary Olson and children Isabel and Oscar), and sister Rosemary Olvesen (who lives in Bayonne, NJ with husband Artie).