John Furniss Watters Sr. Col. USAF (Ret)

Watters, John Furniss, Sr. Col. USAF (Ret)


Age 101   

 John Furniss Watters passed away on Saturday, 30 June, at the age of 101. Born 4 February, 1917 in Selma, Alabama, he graduated from Auburn University in 1940 and was immediately commissioned into the U.S. Army through the ROTC program, initially serving in the horse-drawn artillery.  As World War II approached, he transferred into the U.S. Army Air Corps – serving as a B-17 bombardier/navigator in the European Theater.  During 1943 – 1944, John completed more than the required 25 combat bombing missions, at a time when the life expectancy was only 10 missions. He served at the B-17 crew, squadron, bomb group, bomb wing, and air division levels.  His final assignment was as General LeMay’s lead operational bombing planner. Displaying great courage, he continued flying additional dangerous bombing missions after meeting his requirements, just to ensure he remained current in the air war’s evolving operations and tactics and to enable him to more effectively plan missions.  Post-war, John remained in the military as a career officer, serving for as long as the new U.S. Air Force would allow him, 30 years, holding command at several senior levels including a Strategic Air Command Missile Squadron, and developing intermediate range ballistic missiles. His military service spanned

horse-drawn artillery to strategic bombers to ballistic missiles. His personal awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart and twice he was assigned to units recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation. He retired from the USAF as a full Colonel in 1970 and made Bellevue, Nebraska, his home.

During John’s World War II service in England, he met his future wife, the lovely Jean Briggs. Despite Jean’s initial distaste for Yanks, John’s dogged pursuit won her over. During their courtship, Jean entered the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) – and unbeknownst to John, served in the highly classified ENIGMA code-breaking program. Being extremely sensitive duty, Jean never told John (nor anyone else) about her highly classified work until the program was declassified 30 years later. Immediately after the war, they were engaged and John received special permission from the British authorities for Jean to leave the WRNS.  They were married immediately thereafter in England, starting a marriage that spanned 72 wonderful years. John leaves behind his devoted wife Jean and their six children (John Jr., Duncan, Christopher (Lori), Jennifer Ricou (Ernesto), Robin (Pamela) and Peter (Amanda).  John is also survived by 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

John was an unbelievably courageous, tough and tenacious individual who defended our liberties at a critical time of great peril. He was a wonderful husband, father, and friend to many. His truly remarkable memory even past age 100 was a source of amazement to those privileged to know him. He will be greatly missed by those fortunate to have had their lives enriched by his unique awareness, presence, love and deeply-dedicated friendship. John’s life was truly a life well-lived.

Visitation: Monday, July 9, 2018, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Bellevue Memorial Chapel

Visitation Resuming Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 10:00 a.m.-Noon prior to the Funeral Service both at the Capehart Chapel.

Interment: Omaha National Cemetery

Military Honors: Offutt Air Force Base Honor Guard

Memorials suggested to the Disabled American Veterans,


  • Rich Maurer Posted July 5, 2018 12:41 pm

    I feel privileged to have known Colonel Watters. My condolences to the family.

  • John McNamara Posted July 5, 2018 12:57 pm

    During the few times I had the honor to be with and converse with COL Watters, he was articulate, extremely knowledgeable about innumerable topics and always highly entertaining. God bless him, his wife Jean and all the Watters family.
    John McNamara

  • Ray Williams Posted July 6, 2018 1:48 am

    What a life – and a long fulfilling one. Will be thinking of all of your family in the days ahead.

  • Ronald Liversage Posted July 6, 2018 9:21 am

    Our condolences to the family

  • Mike and Ginny Posted July 6, 2018 12:01 pm

    We are so fortunate to have known John and he will always be in our thoughts.
    Love Mike & Ginny

  • Mike and Ginny Posted July 6, 2018 12:03 pm

    We are so proud to have known John and he will always be forever in our thoughts.
    Love Mike & Ginny

  • Carolyn and John Brantigan Posted July 6, 2018 7:45 pm

    What an amazing life story. We are proud to have a connection through our dear Pete. Love to the whole family. John and Carolyn Brantigan

  • james & Sharon Thomas Posted July 6, 2018 10:50 pm

    Have a great flight West John. Save me a parking spot when you get there. See you later old friend.

  • Ray Williams Posted July 7, 2018 7:44 am

    Will be thinking of all of you in the days ahead.

  • Tom Katalenich Posted July 8, 2018 4:12 pm

    I had the honor of meeting John in 1984. While we were not close friends, when we happened to meet, it always felt like we were old friends “catching up!” He was a special person whom I greatly admired. He will be greatly missed.

  • Maureen Duffy Losee Posted July 9, 2018 3:50 pm

    Jenny and family, my sincere condolences. Your father was part of a truly remarkable generation. The pain will ebb and flow, but it will be there. May it help to know others are thinking of you and praying for you.

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