John H. "Jack" Meyers Sr., a retired Domino Sugar supervisor and decorated World War II veteran who was commander of a state ex-prisoner of war group, died of cancer Thursday at the Baltimore Washington Medical Center. The Glen Burnie resident was 86.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Ferndale, he was a 1942 graduate of Glen Burnie High School and played football for the Linthicum Heights Athletic Association.
He joined the Army during World War II and trained with an infantry unit in Africa. He landed at Anzio Beach in Italy and fought at Monte Cassino and Florence, according to a 1944 Baltimore Sun story headlined, "Marylander is Home Again after Fleeing Nazi Captors."
The news article detailed how Mr. Meyers, a sergeant, was leading a group of Americans when "cornered by an overwhelming number of Nazis." The account said he and his group "chose to fight it out, and they stood their ground, back to back."
An Army buddy of Mr. Meyers' was wounded, struck in the knee by a bullet, and Mr. Meyers, "forgetting his own safety," ceased firing to aid his pal. "As he gave first aid, the Germans pounced on him and he was taken prisoner."
He was then ordered to march back to Germany because the enemy "lacked the motorized equipment or the railway cars."
He was held as a prisoner of war in 1944 and escaped by leaping off a bridge into a stream and swimming away. He spent about six weeks behind enemy lines before he found his way to a British camp.
He was given a three-week furlough to his home in September 1944. He then returned to action and was assigned to the Philippines. He moved from the Army to the Air Force and learned to fly. He remained in an Air Force Reserve unit for many years and enjoyed flying a Piper Cub.
After the war, Mr. Meyers, who belonged to the United Electrical Workers, became active in union and veterans affairs through the Baltimore Industrial Union Congress. News articles detail how he picketed for wage increases at a demonstration in downtown Baltimore in 1946. He also belonged to the Maryland Veterans of World War II and was an early proponent of a state bonus for returning GIs.
He became a quality control supervisor at the Domino Sugar plant in Locust Point, where he worked for 32 years before retiring many years ago.
In 1991, he became the Maryland Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War.
"To me, he was a real American hero," said his daughter, Sarah Fleck of Greensboro, Caroline County. "His passion was helping other veterans. He was right out there asking for psychiatric care for the veterans returning from Iraq. He never gave up on his mission."
Mr. Meyers was also a member of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's Military Advisory Committee and the Maryland Veterans Commission. He belonged to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6506, the American Legion and the United Veterans of Anne Arundel County. He also volunteered at the Baltimore Veterans Hospital.
"Jack was a special person who touched many lives," Senator Mikulski said in a statement. "During that dark time when he was held as a prisoner of war, he could have given up, but Jack stayed strong and returned home to work and raise a family. [Through his service on boards], Jack continued to serve his country and advocate for his fellow veterans after he returned to the civilian world."
The senator also said, "I remember Jack as a big bear of a guy, with an always ready smile. He provided me with wise counsel throughout the years, and I will miss him."
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home, 3204 Mountain Road in Pasadena.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of nearly 13 years, Glenna Stout Smith Meyers; two sons, John H. Meyers Jr. of Summerfield, Fla., and Frank Meyers of Greensboro; two other daughters, Susan Luby and Margaret Hunter, both of Easton; four stepsons, David Smith of Essex, Mark Smith of Havre de Grace, Thomas Smith of Baldwin and Gerald Smith of Parkville; five stepdaughters, Patricia Smith of Clearwater, Fla., Margaret Smith of Bel Air, Diane Smith of Glen Burnie, Sharol Dellammico of Boca Raton, Fla., and Sandra Moore of Baltimore; five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson. His marriage to Margaret Neilson ended in divorce.