July 21, 1923 – Oct. 7, 2017
Four days before he died, John T. Wozer insisted on exercising. So the physical therapist made a house call to guide the former fighter pilot through leg-strengthening drills.
"He wanted to play golf," Greg Wozer said of his father. "He was determined to get out. My dad was restless and frustrated and he did not want to die. He still wanted to hike."
Mr. Wozer, who had climbed 14,271-foot Mount Evans in Colorado at the age of 90, died last Saturday in his son's Clarence home. He was 94.
He and his wife of 63 years, Winifred Oberle Wozer, lived in the Town of Tonawanda until June when they moved in with their son and his family.
Born in Lewis Run, Pa., Mr. Wozer graduated in 1940 from St. Bernard High School in Bradford, Pa., and went to work for the Army Corps of Engineers, clearing brush and surveying land for the airport project.
On Dec. 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he took the air cadet exam at the U.S. Post Office downtown on Ellicott Street. Mr. Wozer scored well.
He went on to an assignment in the 366th Fighter Group with the 9th Air Force. Flying 47 missions as the pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt over northern France and Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, he engaged in three dogfights with the German Luftwaffe.
"He never really talked about his war battles, not in the sense they were glory days," said Greg Wozer. "When he spoke about his experience, he focused on the training -- no dog fights or bombing runs."
When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Mr. Wozer received orders that he was heading to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, but the war there ended in August.
Returning from service, he joined the Air Force Reserve. Although he never again piloted a plane in civilian life, he continued to have a keen interest in aircraft and the scientific aspects of flight.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. He later completed a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Buffalo.
He began working in 1952 as an aeronautical engineer at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories, later Calspan, doing research on ballistics and in the wind tunnel. He retired in 1990.
"He ran a ballistics testing site in Ashford Hollow," said Greg Wozer. "They were often shooting off military shells. I remember him showing us footage of the shells going into a snow bank. This had to be back in the '70s."
Greg Wozer recalled going with his dad to the driving range at Brighton Park Golf Course in the Town of Tonawanda. There, his father used a unique "golf ball," a prototype of a component from a cluster bomb he had been working on at Calspan.
"He'd hit it around and would show me how it curved," said Greg Wozer. "I must have been around 12."
Active in Scouting, Mr. Wozer was an Eagle Scout as a boy and was scoutmaster for 25 years with Troop 202 at St. Amelia’s Catholic Church in Tonawanda. He received the Silver Beaver Award for more that 50 years of service to Scouting.
A skier until five years ago, he was a member of the National Ski Patrol for 35 years and was a past president of the Glenwood Acres Ski Club.
Mr. Wozer was a past president of the 366th Fighter Group and edited "The War We Fought," a history of the 366th Fighter Wing. He also was a member of the Aero Club of Buffalo and the Tonawanda Senior Center. At St. Amelia's Church, he was a member of the Holy Name Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Golden Nuggets.
He was an accomplished painter, photographer and winemaker.
Survivors include his wife, two sons, Greg and Jeff; a daughter, Melissa Crumish; and seven grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 in St. Amelia’s Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.