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John Denis O'Fallon
Viewing: October 25, 2018 (Thursday) from 2:00 to 4:00 and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Service: October 26, 2018 (Friday) at 1:30 p.m.
Location: St. Raphael Catholic Church, 1513 Dunster Rd., Rockville, MD 20854

John O’Fallon was born in Alva Oklahoma, the first surviving son of John and Catherine O’Fallon, an.  His first two years were spent in a one room house with a dirt floor on a homestead in Oklahoma.  The tragedy of the “Dustbowl”, failed crops and the call of family brought them back to Yonkers, New York where he spent the rest of his youth and early adult life.  He went on scholarship to Manhattan College where he studied civil engineering.  The desire to serve in the Army during WW II interrupted his education.  He was on a troop ship to the Pacific theater when armistice was declared, and he was redirected to Korea.  (Not sure this is accurate-that was what he told me when he said he qualified as a WW II vet) Upon return to the US, he graduated college; later took night classes and earned his master’s degree in civil engineering from NYU.  He worked for the Federal Highway Administration for 53 years in NY, Maryland and Connecticut-where he was the first bridge engineer hired by Connecticut’s DOT office.  Over the course of his career, he worked in the design, inspection & safety programs leading to work involving standard and seismic bridge design, highway safety, noise control, alternate bridge construction materials. A long-term student of historic bridges, he authored numerous books & publications, including a comprehensive manual on the construction & historical roles of 18th century bridges that he completed just prior to his retirement, the Covered Bridge Manual.   Such was his enthusiasm for his career, that trips in the car would often be interrupted for pictures and impromptu walking inspections of the undersides of bridges encountered along the road.  He never tired of telling stories of Roebling, the architect of the Brooklyn Bridge, who steadfastly directed construction from his death bed or the endless times he would point out the first bridge he designed, a small span commuter bridge just south of Key Bridge on the GW parkway in Washington, DC. Later, when he took a 2-year hiatus from the government to work for Purcell & Associates as chief designer for the bridges along the I-84 corridor in his beloved state of Conn,. When they gave him his 50-year service pin, it was from the original group of pins casted (of what?).  Some of his work wit and wisdom is encapsulated in the phrase; Illegitimi non carborundum.

Soon after graduating Manhattan, he met and married Mary Jane McCauley.  Together, they raised their family in New York, Connecticut and Maryland.  As a father, he was a man of sometimes mercurial temperament (six children will do that to you).  He took his responsibilities seriously-and would never waste a teachable moment with his children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or anyone within earshot willing to listen.  Dinner table conversation may have included recounting of the day’s activities, current events, stanzas from poems, references to historic events or battles, or admonitions (tactile) as to table manners.  Weekends often found us at his office, on hikes in local parks, or visiting historic sites, mainly activities designed to give Mom some peace & quiet, and help recharge her batteries.  Mass was a weekly constant, never to be missed.   Due to his Catholic school education at St. Mary’s, he still remembered, and recited the Latin responses years after Vatican II converted to English.  Passing on the faith to us was an integral part of his legacy.  Later in life, he would say that he had enjoyed being a husband and father more than anything else in his life. 

He was a man of many interests and abilities- photography, baseball, history, reading, chess, bridge, and golf. An avid lifelong Cincinnati Red baseball fan, we can remember growing up with a daily dose of his version of “This Day in Baseball”, a running commentary and historical perspective on players and of games he had seen, listened to on the radio, or read about when growing up in New York. Invariably there would always be a tie in to his favorite team. He was able to take care of most things around the house- when he got around to it. God knows we couldn’t pay anyone to fix anything, regardless of its criticality. He painted (a three-story house), constructed (several decks and a shed), tiled floors, hung wall paper, did some of his own plumbing, and electrical work.  Much of this he learned on his own; from books and his mistakes. He was able to recount significant dates and events from prehistory to the present.  Forever a well above par golfer, he nonetheless loved that game; playing with him was an adventure that often-encompassed roving over just about the entire course.   He especially enjoyed the courses around Gettysburg where they owned a vacation home on the lake.  While we were never quite sure what his actual handicap was, it was substantial.  Still, he was at his most patient and peaceful when on the links and enjoyed waxing expansive at the 19th hole.  He could tell a good story- from his early life adventures with brother George;  that of family members, and friends.

He was predeceased by his parents, Catherine and John O’Fallon; his brother George; his infant son, David; daughter in law Virginia Willis O’Fallon; and wife Jane.  He leaves behind sons John (Sarah), Brian (Laurie), and Denis (Celia); daughters Kate Vinzani (Gil) and Joan Shobe (Doug); Grandchildren include Kerry (Matt) Dunn, Tom, John Michael and Caroline O’Fallon; Caitlin and Sean O’Fallon, Michael (Huyen), Patrick (Devonne) and April Vinzani:  Kelleen (Brad) Pearson, Ian O’Fallon, Maura (Ben) Ferrell; Liam, Anna, Samantha, and Mary Shobe and great-grandchildren Luke Vinzani and Merrick Jane Pearson. 

We’ll miss the abundant advice, good hearted feedback, and I’m sure somewhere people will soon be hearing about his baseball heroes, Big Lom, Bucky Walters, The Dog and “Double No Hit” Vander Meer.

The family will receive visitors at DeVol Funeral Home, 10 East Deer Park Dr., Gaithersburg, MD 20877 on Thursday, October 25, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at St. Raphael Catholic Church, Falls Rd. and Dunster Rd., Rockville, MD 20854 on Friday, October 26, at 1:30 p.m. If it is your wish, in lieu of flowers you may donate to The Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land in his memory (https://myfranciscan.org/).

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