Major John Robert Shea, USMC (Ret.) 99 and one-half years old, has gone to join his Lord and his wife, Lorena Smith Shea, of 54 years. “The Major,” as he was respectfully known by all who knew him, passed on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. He spent his last days being comforted by a caring staff at Embrace Hospice House in Myrtle Beach.
“The Major” was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on June 16, 1919, to James A. Shea and Marie Agusta Masalsky. He was preceded in death by his parents, four brothers, William, USAF; James and Francis, Army; and Joseph, Navy; and one sister, Ann Marie.
He is survived by his only child, Margaret Ann Shea Maynard and her husband, William (BJ) of North Myrtle Beach; granddaughter, Shea Maynard Breitling and her husband, Brad Breitling of Winston Salem, N.C.; grandson, Kyle Maynard and his wife, Sarah Maynard of Raleigh, N.C.; five adoring great- grandchildren, Prescott, Lexie and Harris Breitling and Cadence and Miles Maynard, as well as many nieces, nephews and dear friends from his military life and new friends from the last 20 years that he has cultivated since moving to the beach.
The Major was one of the remaining members of the greatest generation, a veteran of World War II and Korea, his life story of 100 years minus several months, is an interesting one. He spent his early childhood in Pittsburgh. In 1939 he left high school to go to work. This was the tag-end of the depression; families were suffering financially and jobs were in short supply. With only a few dollars in his pocket, he and several friends decided to pool their money and buy bus tickets to Florida. Finding that the job market was no better in Florida and now, with no money in his pockets, he began his quest to return home via hitchhiking. He made it to Maryland and met up with one of his four brothers who was now in the US Army and who advised him to see the Army recruiter with the possibility of joining. If he qualified, it was a sure thing he would finally be receiving a paycheck. However, he quickly found that the Army was not taking recruits at that time but was told by the recruiter that the Marines were. He passed the first part of the entrance exam, completed all the paperwork and was, hopefully, on his way. However, he quickly learned that, at that time, one had to have parental signatures if underage. He returned to Pittsburgh only to hear the refusal from his father to sign. According to his dad, he already had one son in the military and did not need to have another. It was not easy but his dad finally changed his mind. Once in the Marine Corps, Jack worked his way from what he had often described as the “bottom of the Totem Pole” to a commissioned officer who retired at age 44 as “The Major.” And now, the rest of this story is a beautiful history.
For the past 20 years, Major John (Jack) Shea has been honored at the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebrations in Myrtle Beach and, more recently, Camp Lejeune Marine Base in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Marine Corps League Ball in North Myrtle Beach as the oldest Marine attending the Ball. With this honor he received the first piece of birthday cake during the ceremony which he, in turn, passed it to the youngest Marine in attendance. Many times there was an 80-plus years difference in the oldest and the youngest and more times than not, the youngest was a young, beautiful female marine only several years older than “The Major’s” oldest great-granddaughter. His plan was to parachute out of an airplane on his 100th birthday on June 16, 2019. All can be assured that he will be celebrated once again on that date. The family would like to thank everyone at Summit Place Assisted Living in Little River and Embrace Hospice House in Myrtle Beach for all the love, compassion and care given to Major Shea and his family during the years and weeks prior to his passing.
Funeral services will be held at 12 noon on Saturday, February 9, 2019, at McMillan-Small Funeral Home in Myrtle Beach with full military honors.
The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.
The family requests memorials be made to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Gift Processing Administrator, 18251 Quantico Gateway Drive, Triangle,VA 22172.