John Ahern Healy, Department of Public Works water safety employee and cabdriver, dies

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John Ahern Healy learned to speak fluent French by attending jazz clubs in Paris.

John Ahern Healy, a retired Baltimore City Department of Public Works water safety worker and cabdriver, died of complications of cardiac arrest May 7 at MedStar Harbor Hospital. The Bolton Hill resident was 79.

Born in Teaneck, New Jersey, he was the son of John Patrick Healy, an Air Force colonel and pilot, and Virginia Marie Cain, a homemaker. When he was 6 years old, Mr. Healy’s family moved to Paris where his father was involved with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


As a child in a military family, Mr. Healy attended an English boarding school, later spent time in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and returned to Paris at the time of the Algerian War. He graduated from Paris American High School and attended the University of Grenoble.

Mr. Healy learned to speak fluent French by attending jazz clubs in Paris and discussing politics at cafes.


He lived across the street from the French filmmaker Jacques Tati, a family friend. It was an experience that piqued Mr. Healy’s interest in filmmaking.

He settled in Washington, D.C., and was drafted into the Army before being medically discharged for an ankle problem.

He then studied filmmaking and worked for Byron Motion Pictures in Georgetown as well as for Capital Films DC. He edited films made at the then Washington Redskins games.

Mr. Healy went to Woodstock in 1969 for the fabled concert. He later told friends he witnessed Jerry Garcia get nearly electrocuted on a wet stage during a rainstorm. He remained a Grateful Dead fan and attended Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen concerts, contemporaries of the Dead.

In 1968 he moved to Baltimore and earned an associate’s degree at Baltimore City Community College.

He worked for painting companies, did carpentry, and drove a cab. He was robbed several times and witnessed a murder while driving.

“John had an out of the mainstream job career,” said a friend, Craig Flinner. “He was largely self-educated and had a great, wry sense of humor. He had adventures and experiences and was interested in a wide variety of topics.”

Mr. Healy later earned another diploma from the Community College of Baltimore County at the Dundalk campus. He studied air conditioning and refrigeration.


While living in Bolton Hill in a basement apartment, Mr. Healy met his future wife, Deborah Winkler, who lived on the first floor of the building. They married in 1992 and later bought a home near where they met.

Mr. Healy joined the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and worked at the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant for more than 10 years testing water and logging his findings. He retired in 2015.

He owned a red Volkswagen Beetle and worked on the vehicle in garages he rented in the neighborhood.

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Mr. Healy was a music enthusiast and spent time with his wife in Fells Point taverns that played the blues.

The couple were animal fanciers and fostered litters of newborn kittens. They also adopted rescue dogs.

Mr. Healy acted as an interpreter in France for his wife and other Baltimore teachers while on school trips.


“My husband had a good sense of humor. He was a closet comedian and he would often practice jokes on me. I laughed at the good ones, and when I didn’t at the others, we laughed at the attempt,” she said.

An avid reader of several daily newspapers, he was a student of politics and called himself a “news junkie.”

A celebration of life is being planned for the fall.

Survivors include his wife, Deborah Healy, a retired Baltimore City Schools art teacher; three sisters, Monique Healy of Luray, Virginia, Mariah Healy of Alameda, California, and Elizabeth Healy of Oregon House, California; a brother, Michael Healy of San Francisco; and a niece and a nephew.