James Neel (J.N.) White, Major USAF Ret, passed away at the age of 87 on December 28, 2011 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, the former Betty McClurg; four sons: James Neel II of Palm Beach Gardens; Dr. Terry (Marialice Foster) of Sterling, VA; Randy (Susan Cady) of Conesus; Devin (Sharron Bryant) of Calera, AL. Seven grandchildren also survive: Bryan of Delray Beach, FL; Teagan of New York City; Kathleen of Philadelphia; Kelly and Regan of Sterling; Neel of Calera; and James III of Katy, TX.
His twin brother, Dennison Lewis (D.L.) of Port St. Lucie, FL also survives.
J.N. was born at home at 106 Lake St., Perry. He graduated from Perry High School in 1942. His lifelong dream was to be a pilot and he enlisted in the Air Force just before his 18th birthday. He received his wings in 1944 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. In October 1944 he scored the most hits ever recorded on a target towed behind an AT-6. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in June 1945 for extraordinary achievement on April 17, 1945, destroying five enemy aircraft. He was also awarded a second Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while on sustained combat operations over enemy territory. He flew his P-51 to an altitude of 45,000 feet, the highest ever recorded at that time. He was shot down over Dunquerque and parachuted to safety, which earned him membership in the Caterpillar Club, a club composed of pilots whose lives were saved by silk “chutes”. He was discharged in May 1946 and served in the reserves until 1984.
In 1947 he organized and played drums in a dance band called The Midshipmen, which played big band music in hotels and at high school proms.
In 1948 he joined Champion Knitwear as an artist and designer. In 1963 he became New Sales Manager for Allen Bailey Tag & Label, Inc. of Caledonia. He also designed displays for Robeson Cutlery of Castile.
In 1960 he established his own company, J.N. White Designs, a manufacturer of screen printed labels, nameplates and graphic overlays. In 1975 he became publisher and editor of the Perry Herald and also purchased the Perry Shopper. The three companies were incorporated as J.N. White Associates, Inc. His son Randy purchased the corporation in 1989. Randy sold the Perry Herald and Perry Shopper in 2005, to focus on the growth and development of J.N. White Designs.
J.N. was active in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. He served as president of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Holy Name Society and was a lector, serving two masses every Sunday. He joined Perry Rotary Club in 1974 and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow in 1999 for his service to the club and the community.
He was an avid golfer and past member of Silver Lake Country Club, Locust Hill Country Club and PGA National Members Club. He also enjoyed skiing and swimming. Oil painting and sculpting were his hobbies later in life. He was a history buff who never forgot important events and dates. He spent several years writing his memoir, I Was a P-51Fighter Pilot in WWII, which he self-published in 2003.
There were no calling hours. Private burial will be held at the convenience of the family. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Memorials in J.N.'s name may be made to Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407 or online at hpbcf.org. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 North Main St. Perry, New York 14530.