Valhalla Funeral Home & Valhalla Memory Gardens

698 Winchester RD NE, Huntsville, AL


John Joseph Callahan Sr.

September 12, 1930July 28, 2020

John J. Callahan, Sr, 89, of Huntsville passed away on July 28, 2020 at his home.

John was born in Mount Vernon, NY on September 12, 1930. He was the son of Edward G. and Marguerite A. Callahan, who he loved and honored throughout their long lives. He was the brother of Mary Elizabeth (“Betty”) McIntee, his equal in courage and strength, and whose friendship he treasured. Each of them preceded him in death.

John earned his undergraduate degree at Fordham University, a Master’s Degree at New York University, and his medical degree from the University of Rome, having learned Italian in an intensive language program in Perugia, near Assisi, in Italy, in order to pursue his professional education. Though of Irish and Dutch ancestors who had settled in what later became New York, his heart had unquestionably been transformed into an Italian one, as evident in his love of all things Italian, not least his many Italian friends. Until recently, he enjoyed teaching conversational Italian in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

In 1956, John married Evelyn Ann Houlahan, whom he had known since high school. Together they raised four children: Hugh (Sharon), Claudia Slagle (Geoff), Elisabeth (“Lisa”) Johnson (Jim) and John Jr. (Rebekah), all of Huntsville. They shared loves for art, music (especially opera), food, bridge and travel. Evelyn preceded him in death in 1992 in Coeur d’Alene, ID, one of the communities to which his professional pursuits took them during their years together.

John married Betty Edmonds of Hayden Lake, ID in January 1994. He enjoyed a happy though brief marriage to Betty, who passed away in 1996.

Ever one to embrace change – both sought and sometimes thrust upon him, in 1976, after almost fifteen years of practice as an anesthesiologist, John became a resident in psychiatry in the Iowa Mental Health system, while living in Storm Lake, IA. He completed his residency in psychiatry at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where he continued as an assistant professor of psychiatry for several years, until he became director of a psychiatric hospital in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Returning to Alabama in 2001, he was employed as the part-time psychiatrist at Limestone Correctional Facility, where he met Jean Gott, a nurse.

John and Jean were married in January 2006. Together they pursued their many mutual passions for, among other things, cooking, painting and drawing, gardening and travel, both to visit their extended families and to Italy and Ireland.

John is survived by his wife, Jean; all of his children and stepchildren; his grandchildren: Ed and Sam Johnson, William and Erin Slagle, and Kristen and Katie Callahan; and all of his step grandchildren. He was greatly comforted by his grandsons Sam and William participating in his care during his final illness. John lived each day of his life in loving devotion to and care for his family, and, for so many years, his patients also. He embodied the following wisdom of Carl Jung: “The life I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.”

John’s family is particularly grateful for the compassionate care he was provided by Jennifer Bolton, a long-time friend of his and his family, Compassus Hospice nurses, chaplain and aides and the First Choice Senior aides, and to the pastor, parishioners and staff of St. Thomas Episcopal Church who supported him both temporally and spiritually with visits, meals and their prayers.

A funeral liturgy for John will be celebrated at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Huntsville at a later time. It will be a family-only service given the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic. Anyone wishing to do so may make a donation in honor of John to Operation Smile or their preferred charity.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


John Joseph Callahan Sr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Shirley Burmeister

August 5, 2020

Sincere sympathy to Callahan family. A friend from Storm lake, Iowa .Shirley Burmeister

Donna Phillips

August 3, 2020

Beautifully written eulogy. Sending you much love and my sincere condolences.
From your cousin,


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