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Va. Gov. McDonnell's Father Dies | News

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Va. Gov. McDonnell's Father Dies

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- John F. "Jack" McDonnell, a World War II veteran and father of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, died Tuesday. He was 94.

The elder McDonnell had been ill for years with Alzheimer's disease.

Based in England during World War II, John McDonnell flew aboard bombers that made sorties into Nazi-occupied Europe. He served for 23 years in the Air Force.

The governor is the eldest of five children whom Jack and Emma McDonnell raised in a strict Irish-Catholic household in northern Virginia. In an 2009 interview, the governor described his father as "a tough, Boston Irish-Catholic Air Force officer who wasn't afraid to use the belt."

McDonnell said his father "encouraged me to work hard, dream big, and not make excuses in life and all things are possible."

"As the son of an Irish immigrant he lived the American Dream. I thank God he lived to attend my inauguration," McDonnell said in a statement.

In one of his father's last public appearances, the new governor knelt at his Jan. 16 inauguration before his father's wheelchair and kissed his forehead.

Jack McDonnell was a University of Maryland graduate who taught Sunday school, coached children's baseball and was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and Notre Dame University athletics.

The elder McDonnell was widowed in 1994. He will be buried alongside his wife in Arlington National Cemeteries, though funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

The family request that any contributions be made to the Emma and Jack McDonnell Memorial Scholarship Fund at Mount Vernon, Va.

Death came to John McDonnell on election day, a year after his son's own easy election victory. The Republican governor campaigned for GOP congressional candidates in Virginia and other Republicans elsewhere this year, but was not on this fall's ballot.