John F. Rehm

November 25, 1935February 19, 2021
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Old fighter pilots never die, they just fly away.

John Francis Rehm flew away on February 19, 2021. He was 85 years old and lived at Blue Skies of Texas in San Antonio. His life was filled with adventures and experiences most people only dream of. He also taught his children important lessons, like blaming your farts on the dog, how to plan and execute an inexpensive and tightly efficient "combat vacation", and regular courses on how to fix "that thing we bought at the garage sale". He had a drive and intensity that never faded, and he applied high speed and maximum effort to many things including mowing the lawn and driving a car. His continuous drive to "push the outside of the envelope" earned him the pet name "Jesus John" which our mother blurted out many times during any given car ride.

John was born on November 25th, 1935 in Baltimore, MD during the Great Depression. One's youth shapes a person, and he learned to work hard, stretch every penny, and coax unnatural life out of material objects. As a youth he had simple pleasures, such as going down to the bakery to watch the newly invented bread slicing machine in action and arcing over speeding trains on a 40' rope swing.

He was an adrenaline junkie, of that there is no doubt. He made a life-long habit of finding the limits of what was possible. The exact date this turned from a hobby to a profession is unclear. Many say he fully transitioned to "Type A" when he did his first solo flight in a biplane in France at 16 years old, followed immediately by his aerobatic solo later that afternoon. Flying became a life-long passion that stayed with him the rest of his life.

He later became a USAF pilot, flying the F-105 Thunderchief in the Vietnam War. He did two combat tours in Vietnam from February to April 1966 and May to August 1967. He flew the F-105 as a strike pilot and as one of the "Ryan's Raiders" who flew two-seat F-105s modified to do the first all-weather night radar bombing missions. On June 16, 1967 he flew a mission for which he and his navigator Cal Markwood received the Silver Star. On August 3, John became the first Ryan's Raider pilot to complete 100 missions over North Vietnam.

While stationed at Kadena, John met his future wife Janet Van Aken, then a 24 year old Army brat on a blind date at the Kadena Officers Club. Dad was on nuclear alert response at the time, so all he had time to do was run in, say hi, and zoom back out. Despite that, they got married in May, 1967 in a military ceremony. Unfortunately at the reception his squadron commander told him he had to leave for his second combat tour the very next morning. Less than 12 hours later, he was on his way back to Vietnam.

John's military career spanned a total of 33 years and he dragged his family everywhere he could, most notably Osan, Korea, Austin, TX, and back to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan as his last tour of duty. He retired in 1987, returning to Austin TX and the family home. Oh wait, he didn't retire - one career wasn't enough for him. After a short stint as cable patrol pilot he joined the Texas Rehabilitation Commission in their Facilities department. After 22 years of dedicated service to the State of Texas, he retired again - for real this time!

John and Janet planned their move to the (Formerly known as) Air Force Village in San Antonio, TX along with Janet's parents Chet and Julia Van Aken. Sadly, John's wife of 44 years passed away before they could truly enjy retirement together. Besides his loving wife Janet, John is predeceased by his sister Marie and brother Fred.

He's survived by his sons Bill (Paula Ables) and James (Dani Gannon). John was a fantastic Grandpa to his grandchildren Ariana, Morgan, Trinity, Zoe, and Jett. We are pretty sure that he taught Jett how to blame farts on the dog. Please leave a picture or your favorite memory on his obituary page at We'd also love it if you would tell us which of his jokes you actually thought were funny.

You can come say goodbye to John at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home and Memorial Park with the Viewing on Sunday, February 28th at 12-3pm (limited occupancy) and Monday, March 1st at 2pm for the Graveside where he'll be laid to rest next to his wife. Weather permitting, we will go to Doc's BackYard afterward, sit outside, and tell stories about him.


  • Visitation

    Sunday, February 28, 2021

  • Graveside Service

    Monday, March 1, 2021


John F. Rehm

have a memory or condolence to add?

Max Hatcher

March 7, 2021

John and Jim were my roommates at Kadena in our Q -hut. Lots of good times. And our other roomie was that big BMW. We hauled it in to keep it dry. RIP old friend. Always CAVU.

Beverly LaFond

March 3, 2021

My favorite memories are the times John Rehm went out of his way to help me. He set up our living room TV, drove his Billiards buddy Bob Yanke & Chongsu and me downtown to the Glasser Conference on a Saturday at 7am, and let me go with him and Julia to a film that mentioned Glasser's choice theory.

Best of all I liked his great hugs whenever we met in the lobby and the time he took to visit. My favorite of his jokes is the one that has the punch line "OH HIM!"

Bill Ball

February 27, 2021

John has been a regular player in our Billiards group here at Blue Skies of Texas West. I'm attaching a picture of him from one of our 8-ball pool tournaments in 2019.

You asked if we could remember any of his jokes that were really funny. After much thought over all the jokes he told, we just couldn't find any that fit in the "funny" category! 😎 Most were really terrible!

And John was famous for forgetting to use the cue ball when it was his turn to play, and usually had to be reminded, loudly:

"John! Use the damn cue ball, NOT the 9 ball"

John was a real character, and we'll miss him. We would like his loved ones to know that he was a good friend here, and we send our condolences to his family.

Calvin Markwood

February 24, 2021

I am the other guy in the 100th mission dunking picture with John. We were a Ryan's Raider team. I thank God that I was paired up with John who brought a combination of skilled piloting and clever navigation experience from his SAC days. We flew 54 missions together at night and low altitude through the mountains of Laos and N. Vietnam. We had to combine our experience and creativity to do so and I am grateful that it worked out so well. Rest in peace, John.

Bill Rehm

February 23, 2021

Richard (Dick) Guild

February 22, 2021

John Rehm and I were in the same F-105 class at Nellis AFB. Upon graduation he was assigned to Kadena AB and I to Yokota AB, both in Japan. He is best known for his participation as one of Ryan's Raiders (F-105 Night Attack) that lasted a short time due to losses.

John was a gentleman and a mighty fine air warrior.

Hand Salute.

Glug, glug, ... smash.

Richard E (Dick) Guild, Col, USAF (Ret)


February 22, 2021

I first met John when he arrived at the 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1965. He was a great guy and his positive attitude made him a pleasure to be around. In addition, he proved himself to be an American hero many times over. People like him are rare and he will be sorely missed. My prayers go to his family.

RiP my friend.

Steve Grimes

February 20, 2021

I just received word of John‘s passing. I will need to let that soak in. I loved him and respected him and considered him a mentor, a calming influence. He had a rebel sense of humor and was a bit more hell raiser than most people knew. He was a jet fighter . Need I say more.
I am very sad. I love you John!


John with his first granddaughter Ariana, November 2007


John, Janet, Bill, and James in Hong Kong, 1986


John with little Billy, 1970


John with his sons Bill and James in Korea, 1975


John, Bill, and James in Canton, China, 1985. Photo taken by Janet Rehm.


John with his son Bill relaxing at a way station during their climb of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Photo taken by James Rehm.


John Rehm and Cal Markwood after John's 100th mission over North Vietnam, August 3, 1967