John Heaphy Fellowes

John Heaphy Fellowes, died on 3 May, 2010, in Pendennis Mount, MD. Retired Navy Capt. John H. "Jack" Fellowes, 77, died at his Pendennis Mount home Monday afternoon from congestive heart failure, family members said yesterday.


A member of the Naval Academy Class of 1956, then-Lt. Cmdr. Jack Fellowes was the pilot of an A-6A Intruder, a two-seat bomber. On Aug. 27, 1966, Fellowes and his bombardier-navigator, Lt. j.g. George Coker, took off from the deck of the carrier USSConstellation. It was their 55th mission together, and the target was a pontoon bridge near the town of Vinh, North Vietnam. As the plane approached the target, Fellowes said later, antiaircraft fire tore off its right wing. Fellowes and Coker ejected, and both fractured bones in their backs. They were captured about a mile from each other, Coker said yesterday. Fellowes and Coker saw each other occasionally soon after being captured, but then were held for four years without seeing each other. They bumped into each other when the North Vietnamese were reorganizing their prisons and prisoners. "It was Christmas 1970, and there was Happy Jack, standing right there!" Coker said, using the nickname so many people used for Fellowes. "He would dislike you for lying to him, but he would like you for standing up to him," Coker said. "He was a gentle giant; he was as tough as nails. He didn't look tough, he didn't talk tough, he didn't act tough, he just was."


Coker, who went on to retire from the Navy with the rank of commander, said Fellowes had an infectious sense of humor. After returning to the United States, he said, he and Fellowes had a running joke as to which one of them was incompetent. "He claimed my navigation got us shot down, and I claimed it was his lousy flying," Coker said. During his time as a POW, Fellowes was held in five prisons, including the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." At times, he was beaten, tortured and nearly starved. "My lowest point during those years was 10 September 1966," Fellowes wrote in a 1976 edition of U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine. "After a 12-hour torture session in which I resisted my captors' attempts to force a statement condemning my country, I lost the use of both arms for the next four months." "In prison we had considered ourselves losers," he wrote. "Here we were, sitting out the war while our shipmates had to take over our duties. "We never labeled this 'heroism.' " Fellowes told The Capital in 2003 of having to eat "grass soup" to stay alive. Fellowes spent six years, seven months and 22 days as a prisoner. He said he had some bad dreams about the experience, but overall was able to adjust to being home, back with his family. "If you can't adjust to a hot steak and a cold beer, you have got problems," he said.


John Fellowes Jr. graduated from the Naval Academy in 1984 and became a navigator-bombardier on an A6 Intruder similar to the one his father flew. He said he believes what kept his father sane as a POW was knowing that his wife, Patricia Catherine Watkins Fellowes, was taking care of the couple's four children. "Mom did an incredible job" of nurturing the children, John Fellowes Jr. said. "For the first one or two years, we had no idea whether he was dead or alive. After that, we got letters once every seven or eight months. We knew he was gone, and we knew something was wrong, but we knew when he came home everything would be whole."


Fellowes was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up in Tucson, Ariz., family members said. He retired from the Navy in July 1986, after which he often volunteered at the Naval Academy, mentoring midshipmen and talking to them about the meaning of leadership and the importance of integrity, his son said. He also worked part time in the General Assembly mail room and worked with the Annapolis Police Department, where he was hired in June 1993 as a liquor inspector, the department said. At the police station, Fellowes was known to the public as the man who fingerprinted citizens who wanted a record of their prints, a police spokesman said. "He liked being around people, and he liked staying busy," John Fellowes Jr. said.