John Edward McKinley
October 10, 1934 – March 6, 2018
John Edward McKinley was born on October 10, 1934, in the back bedroom of the parsonage at the United Methodist Church in Lake Butler, Florida, the oldest of the Rev. J.E. and May Dyal McKinley’s four children. He grew up in Methodist churches in Lake Butler, Citra, Hawthorne, Sulfur Springs, Jacksonville, and Sanford, as his parents served their congregations.
He graduated from Seminole High School in 1952 and completed his first two years of college at Oxford College of Emory University in Oxford, Georgia. He returned to Gainesville to pursue a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Florida, but after several semesters he and the University agreed that it would be best for him to focus on becoming more mature before completing the degree. He joined the Army and served for three years, stationed in Buffalo, New York.
The combination of cold weather and Army service did indeed develop maturity, and after his honorable discharge he returned to Gainesville to complete his degree, which he did in 1961. That same year, he met Miriam Watson, formerly of Bermuda, Alabama, in Sunday School at First Methodist Church in Gainesville. They were married in the same church, with his father officiating, on April 7, 1962.
He put his Army experience and degree in Mechanical Engineering to work in the aerospace industry, working first for Pan Am, where he designed and installed infrared systems for tracking rocket launches. After that, he worked on NASA projects with Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama until he could no longer tolerate the cold. He transferred to Cape Kennedy, where he was proud to have played a key role in designing the hydraulic systems for the Saturn V rockets.
In 1968, he took a job at Hudson Pulp and Paper in Palatka, and he worked there until he retired in 1998 as Power and Recovery Superintendent. In Palatka, he was active in St. James United Methodist Church, in driving his daughters, Ann and Amanda, and their horses to various 4H events, and getting out on the river in one of his many boats as often as he could.
Following retirement, he was able to spend more time on the water, and he and Miriam spent six months living on a houseboat on the St. Johns River. Following that, they lived in Melbourne, Milton, and St. Johns, Florida. In each of their homes, he served the church and the community in ways big and small. For 16 years, he turned his lifelong love of boats and the water to service in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, rising to the rank of Flotilla Commander. In Milton, he and Miriam were key volunteers for Family Promise, and in 2009 they were named Volunteers of the Year. John Edward McKinley passed away peacefully on March 6, 2018, in St. Johns, Florida, with Miriam at his side. He is survived by Miriam, his wife of 55 years, his two daughters, Ann McKinley and Amanda McKinley (John Witoshynsky), his four grandchildren, Sam and Caroline Haarman and Clark and Carina Witoshynsky, his brother, Marvin D. McKinley, sister, Mary McKinley Stephens, and his beloved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his youngest sister, Barbara McKinley Hollis.
Although we probably should remember him for his lifelong service to family, church, and community, the truth is that his family and everyone else who knew him will first remember his mischievous grin, his unfailing ability to make people laugh at inappropriate moments, and his ability to brighten a day. We hope that all of these, as well as his values, will live on in his children and grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, 51 Children’s Way, Enterprise, Florida, 32725.
- Memorial Service Saturday, March 17, 2018