John Henry Irving was born June 5, 1907, in Equality, Gallatin County, Ill. He was the son of James Nicholas Irvin and Eva Mae Westfall.
As a schoolboy, John's teacher told him he was spelling his last name "Irvin" incorrectly and that he needed to add a "g" at the end. At her insistence he did so, and from that point on changed his last name from Irvin to Irving.
John worked in the coal mines for two years before leaving home at 19.
In 1928, he fractured his pelvis while in the Merchant Marines.The doctors told him he would never walk again and would have to go home where he could be taken care of. To that he replied, "You teach me how to walk ... I'll do it." And he did.
In 1942, John enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Okinawa during World War II. He was honorably discharged from Camp Beal, Calif., in November 1945.
In 1946, John married Ruth Ann Krauss. They lived in St. Louis, where they had one daughter, Donna Kay.
John was a member of American Legion Post 161 in Ferguson, Mo. He was a barber by profession and an extremely quiet man, honest, hard-working, unpretentious and never asked for much.
After being diagnosted with cancer and told he only had six months to live, he lived that time quietly, bravely, uncomplainingly and without self-pity. On Sept. 12, 1986, he passed away at his home in Ferguson at 79.
John and Ruth are buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.