John Earl Cessna Jr.

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John Earl Cessna Jr., 83, passed away unexpectedly on July 8, 2022, at his home in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born on March 31, 1939, to Gladys D. (Rupard) Cessna and John Earl Cessna Sr. He is survived by a brother, James Cessna and wife Lori, of Lawrence, Kansas; a sister, Joan Wollenberg, of Independence, Missouri; sisters-in-law Amelia Jensen, Carol Denes, Nancy Offerman (Ken), brother-in-law Richard Siminis, and many loving nieces and nephews. Also Jerry and Gail Ward, dear friends of 43 years, Mark and Kristi Freeman, Fritz Kramer, and so many more caring friends and neighbors. He was preceded in death by his parents and loving wife, Joyce, of 53 ½ years.  

John grew up in Independence and attended Central High School in Kansas City. He was an honor student throughout high school. John was an Eagle Scout and a Firebuilder in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say at Osceola Scout Camp.

John was a runner-up for a full Navy scholarship to Annapolis and was granted a full four year scholarship to Park University, which he declined.

John graduated from the University of Kansas in 1962 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. While at KU, he earned his private pilot’s license and met Aldous Huxley, the author of “Brave New World.”

John was the president of his professional electrical engineering fraternity and president of the student body of the Institute of Electrical Engineering while at KU.  

After graduation he went to pilot training in the Air Force at Laredo, Texas. Later he decided to forgo pilot training for communications, and he spent one year in Biloxi, Mississippi, training to become a communications officer. After graduating from Communications Officer Training in 1963 he was assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.

John spent 2 ½ years in the Air Force in Anchorage. While there he was promoted from second lieutenant to first lieutenant and was given a Top Secret/Crypto clearance. He went through the Good Friday Earthquake on March 27, 1964, (the most powerful North American earthquake at a magnitude of 9.2). Later John was promoted to the Alaskan Air Command, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.  

After the Air Force, he worked for the Vendo Company in Kansas City in Research and Development for five years. He received a patent for a coin acceptor, which could separate quarters by the year minted. He also successfully built a microwave oven to go inside a vending machine. Prior to his departure, he was promoted to the Supervisor of Electrical Engineering.

Following his work at the Vendo Company, he went to work for the Electro-Dynamics Corporation which made quartz crystals.  The crystal was used primarily in television sets and also in cars, jet planes and CB radios. He worked on trimming crystals into their final frequency using a laser. He also learned the 8805 machine language and built a $100,000 crystal sorter using the 8805 programing code. He was promoted to supervisor of the division making this new crystal.

He received an MBA from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. One course while working towards the degree taught Fortran computer code (Punched cards, 24 hour turnaround time). He also was a member of the Kansas City Computer Club, where the “Kansas City standard” for modems was developed.

On one business trip to New York John installed an invention of his: the world’s first automated soda dispenser at the new Madison Square Garden.  

After 10 ½ years of work at the Electro-Dynamics Corporation, he began work for King Radio in Test Engineering. Within a very short time he was able to reduce the time to test a circuit board from 30 minutes to just under 3 minutes. He was then promoted to Group Leader of Test Engineering. After 12 ½ years as Group Leader, the President of King Radio asked John to become director of Total Quality for King Radio.

John liked to share the story that while at King Radio he worked with the engineers who developed the first civilian GPS and started the Garmin Company—and that their director did not see a future in GPS!

After Ed King sold King Radio to Bendix, King Radio became Bendix/King. John worked on another master’s degree in Computer Science. John learned Pascal computer code while working on this degree.  

Finally Bendix/King was sold to the AlliedSignal Corporation. The new president then began replacing the existing directors. One day the president called John into his office and closed the door. John figured it was his time to be fired. Instead, the new president told John he could have any job he wished within the AlliedSignal Corporation. John chose Engineering Services (but later said that he should have asked the president for his job!).

He was then asked to go to Ft. Lauderdale to close the AlliedSignal plant there. Shortly after John arrived, an engineer quit who had developed for seven years a large piece of test equipment. John was sent to Los Angeles to learn the computer code this machine used. John learned the new code within a week and came back to Ft. Lauderdale where he reverse-engineered the machine. The plant closed and the machine for testing radar units was transferred to Olathe, Kansas.

After 18 ½ years working for AlliedSignal (now Honeywell), John retired. He worked for a web design company, Net2Business for a year and a half and then decided to retire for good.

While growing up, John often attended local theater productions which led to a love of theater and his desire to work with the New Theater Restaurant and serve on the board of the New Theater Guild. 

John married Joyce Siminis in 1968 in St. Louis. They were married for 53 ½ years before Joyce passed on January 12, 2022.  John was so very lonely for Joyce but was determined to continue socializing with his loving family and friends. He continued his love of painting almost daily.  

He and Joyce were involved with the local chapter of People to People International, for which he served as president for a time.  He also served on the board of People to People. As a result, he had many friends around the world. He was a member of the Kansas City Sister Cities organization. 

He served as a science fair judge for over 20 years and was able to fly one student to meet Burt and Dick Rutan of Voyager and SpaceShipOne fame. He also mentored a robotics team at Barstow High School for several years. 

John was a creative and vibrant person throughout his life and didn’t slow down in retirement.  

John created the design for his backyard water garden he named Zen Pond. Over the next 20 years, he would move over 220 tons of Colorado Moss Rock to complete Zen Pond including two waterfalls and a 30,000 gallon Koi pond. 

John became a very accomplished acrylic painter and bronze sculptor in his retirement. Many of his bronze sculptures are part of the water garden surrounding the ponds. Joyce and John’s family and friends spent many celebrations under the gazebo overlooking the water garden.  

John and Joyce had three Maine Coon cats and one Siamese during their life together. He is survived by their last Maine Coon, Bosley. 

Service

Please check back to this website for information regarding details for a Celebration of Life for John.

Memorial Contributions

In liew of flowers, donations may be made to St. jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Wayside Waifs, or Paseo Academy (central High School ) was John’s alma mater

5 Comments

  1. Derrick Lewis on September 1, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    It was a great pleasure getting to know John the 5 years that I’ve known him. I was his pest control technician, but he treated me like a true friend. I’ve learned so much from him in such a small timeframe. I’m gonna miss you my friend.

  2. Linda N Refer on July 24, 2022 at 11:08 am

    I miss John and Joyce both. It is too much to lose them both in such a short period of time. But I’m glad John is no longer grieving over Joyce.

  3. Diane Flynn on July 17, 2022 at 10:37 am

    Blessings and Peace, John.

  4. Greg Rector on July 17, 2022 at 10:01 am

    A wonderful fellow and very interesting life. He and Joyce will leave a gap in all our lives.

  5. Mark Freeman on July 17, 2022 at 9:24 am

    John has become one of my dearest and best friends over the last 5 years. Of all John’s accomplishments in service, education, engineering, invention, business, and community, it is John’s lively personality, witty spirit, and loving soul that touched my life most.

    He was given to me as a gift, a friend, by being my neighbor and fellow artist for which I have him to credit in being an artist today.

    Of all his accomplishments, art it seems was way down the list. But art brought John and me together. Closely together. He must have been great at every single thing he ever tried!

    I miss him more than words can describe. My only wish is I could have met him sooner and he could have stayed longer. God had another plan for John – for John to be with Him, and for that my sadness can be comforted.

    I love you, John Cessna. I miss you every day. Godspeed my dear, dear friend.

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