US Air Force

John Kevin Hallisey

January 20, 1960 ~ December 19, 2023 (age 63) 63 Years Old

John Hallisey Obituary

John Kevin Hallisey, 63, of Ellicott City, MD, passed away unexpectedly but surrounded by family on Dec. 19, 2023.

Born in 1960 to Dr. John G. Hallisey and Mary M. Hallisey in Aliquippa, PA, John was a man of deep faith, who oriented his life to serve God through the service of others, most especially his family and the country. 

He was an airman by profession, entering the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School in 1985. He served with distinction, first as a fighter pilot, flying the F-111 Aardvark during Operation Desert Storm in 1990, then as an instructor pilot for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, where he trained the next generation of combat pilots for NATO air forces. Although he continued to serve as instructor in the Air Force reserves for several more years, he transitioned out of active duty to fly for Southwest Airlines on April 22,1999. He officially retired from the Air Force March 1, 2008.

John landed his last plane for Southwest Airlines at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport at 16:25 “Herb time” (CT) on Dec. 9, 2023. 

When he wasn’t flying, he was at home taking care of his 15-year-old son, Jonah, and his wife of 19 years, Cecile Sorra, and his beloved Labrador retriever, Saint, and cat, Polly. Through the daily tasks as husband and father, John demonstrated the kind of love that became the source of his own transformation. The depth of his love for his family was lived out in how he sacrificed his very self and strove daily to be the man God created him to be. He did this imperfectly, but he did this nonetheless.

His entertainments were simple. He was a lifelong, avid Steelers fan, long-enduring the indignities of living in Baltimore. He was grateful that his wife was a Commanders fan. Although he loved the Pirates, he loved the Orioles more. His most favorite spectator sport, however, was watching his son wrestle or play piano, or rather, watching his son do just about anything.

He enjoyed a really fine single-malt scotch, but loved a cold IPA. 

Over the last few years, his happiest place was on the pier of his lakeside cabin in Weston, Maine, at sunset. The quiet of the woods and Faulkner Lake were a balm. He and Jonah loved to ATV through the woods and small mountains of northern Maine. Nothing was more satisfying to him than to watch his dog swim and swim and swim in the lake. 

John is survived by his wife and son; his brothers, Brian (Beverly), Peter (Kathy); sisters, Peggy Hallisey (Mark West), Kathy Pickard (Randy Pickard), and Judy Hallisey (Michael Fine); his parents-in-law, Tony and Loly Sorra; aunt-in-law, Dominga “Tita” Sorra; brothers- and sisters-in-law, Grace and Buddy Bresnick, Rene and Joann Sorra, Cathy and Guy Talerico, Joselina and Joe Dichoso, Jim Sorra, Mary Ann Sorra and Jack Reybold; godsons, Patrick Hallisey, John Burbank; and a loving host of cousins, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and -nephews.

John was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Michael; sister, Mary Anne Hodge; and brother-in-law, Butch Sorra.

Visitation will be held at 5 - 8 pm on Dec. 27 at the Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, P.A., 12540 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, Md 21029. 

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 am on Dec. 28 at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, 12500 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, MD 21029. 

Entombment will be in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Mausoleum, 200 E Padonia Rd, Timonium, MD 21093. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Missionaries of Charity Gift of Hope House in Baltimore (via check) or Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiquiu, NM. 

Here is the direct link to watch John's Funeral Mass: Funeral Mass for John Hallisey - St. Louis Catholic Church (youtube.com)

Below is John's Eulogy, provided by his loving Family: 

First, thank you. Your prayers for John and for Jonah and I have sustained us in these hard days and nights. Jonah and I are so deeply moved by your kindness and support — my family who agonized with us at the hospital and then masterfully anticipated all our needs; friends who’ve kept us afloat with prayer and food, and the communities that have reached out to us — here at St. Louis, at  Mount Saint Joseph, Christ in the Desert Monastery, and Southwest Airlines, especially Kristin and Troy who’ve sacrificed part of their Christmas just to drive Jonah and me around.

I almost didn’t write this eulogy. But I knew that at the very least, Jonah and I needed to tell you how full of gratitude we are for all of you.

———

A verse from Isaiah has been rattling around my mind almost since the moment John died —

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

It has been the only answer for John’s utterly unforeseen and still inconceivable death. It seems he over-prepared in typical fashion and successfully completed God’s mission much earlier than we had ever anticipated. But he always did say, if you’re not 15 minutes early, you are late.

John certainly seemed to accelerate his rate of growth spiritually and emotionally over these last few years. I wanted to bear witness, not in the usual way, but to the signposts of God’s work in his life. I wrote in his obituary that through the daily tasks of husband and father, he demonstrated the kind of love that became the source of his own transformation. That is no platitude. By God’s grace, he poured himself out to be a better father to Jonah, and a better husband to me. Every day, he hacked away at those parts of him that got in the way of that goal. There was never any doubt that our good was at the heart of his every decision and action.

To give you an idea of the transformation this entailed, you should know that this is the person whose Air Force buddies endowed with the call sign ‘Psycho’. The earliest evaluations of him pointed out that John was too much of a loner, that he had a temper, and that he needed to ease up when teased. Those evaluations also reported that he had a phenomenal display of tactical knowledge and skill, had superior planning and execution, was a person whose skill and integrity could absolutely be relied upon, was dogged and thorough, and many other accolades.

By the time I met him in Chicago 24 years ago, he was a very self-assured person. He declared soon after we started dating that I would, in fact, marry him. How could I not? he said. I’m cool, like Chuck Yeager. … I gritted my teeth and tried to bring him down a peg — Right, I said, more like Chuck as in Charlie Brown. From that point on, he signed all his correspondence to me as Chuck — and I signed mine as Patti, as in Peppermint Patti.

Because he was in love with me, he started going back to church with me. But that’s as far as my influence went when it came to the rediscovery of his faith. The good Lord may have used me to catch John’s attention, but it was all John thereafter.

He did not do anything halfway, so of course his conversion was mark-ed. I was talking to one of his oldest friends recently and he still shakes his head incredulously at the change from Psycho to the John who dedicated so many Saturdays cooking for, bathing and accompanying men sick with AIDS. Those Mother Theresa nuns at the Gift of Hope Hospice in Baltimore taught him deep, sacrificial love.

Then there was Christ in the Desert Monastery. We had been reading a lot of Thomas Merton and we had wanted to go somewhere holy and beautiful together, so he diligently did his research and found the monastery in the haunting canyons of New Mexico. It was our first trip together. I was a little jealous because he was such a hit with all the monks, including the superior. But since that first visit, that community of holy men have prayed for us and we for them. Through them, he learned about community of faith.

All of these God encounters I know cushioned him during the dark days of his heart-valve surgery, when he was forced to stop flying T-38s altogether and temporarily forced to stop flying for Southwest Airlines. He had to dig deep for that consoling faith. Over the years, he would draw from that well many times.

We helped each other through the difficult health challenges — his surgery and recovery and my own bout with ovarian cancer. Because we believed that God was the cause and center of our lives together, and was especially present to us in our illness, he asked me … again … to marry him. So we made our lives together sacramental.

Four years later, the impossible happened. We got pregnant with Jonah.

Gosh what that did to his heart. Over the last 15 years, John — this over-planning, detail-oriented, over-prepared, deliberate, prone-to-solitude, quick-tempered man — had to learn how to let go and let God. He was still demanding, he micromanaged, he pushed — all in an almost desperate effort to protect Jonah from the hardships of life and to pour into him all the hard-won lessons and wisdom he had gained for himself.

But during these last handful of years especially — for love of Jonah — he began to shed that false sense of control. He was doing the hardest work he’d done yet: He was learning to accompany Jonah on his own path, rather than trying to dictate what that path was.

When I say that the love he bore us became the means for his own transformation, that is what I mean. He was still John. But he was always becoming the John God was calling him to be. 

During the past two or three years, we as a couple worked really really hard to make a better marriage. He did a lot of heavy lifting in the changes he was trying to make. And though we often stumbled, we were making headway, thanks in no small part to John’s dogged determination and his absolutely unwavering love for me.

Then everything abruptly ended.

And so I go back to Isaiah —

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

John must have achieved the purpose for which God spoke him into this world. Did that make him perfect? He would be the first to say absolutely not. But in the mystery of faith, John must have indeed accomplished what God desired of him. So my sweetheart, well done, good and faithful servant.

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Services

Visitation
Wednesday
December 27, 2023

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, P. A.
12540 Clarksville Pike, Rt 108
Clarksville, Maryland 21029

Funeral Mass
Thursday
December 28, 2023

10:00 AM
St. Louis Catholic Church
12500 Clarksville Pike
Clarksville, MD 21029

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