John P. Atkinson, 89, passed Monday, February 2 at Grande Ronde Hospital. A celebration of life with military honors will be held at a later date.\n\nJohn was born July 11, 1925 in Webb City, Missouri to Daniel C. Atkinson and Gertrude Ann (Whitehead) Gary Atkinson. John joined 5 children in an extended family that ultimately numbered 4 siblings and 18 half siblings. Twelve of the 22 children survived to adulthood. Growing up in extreme poverty, the family moved often, searching for work in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. John attended school in Goodman and May, Missouri. In 1942 he moved to Vale, Oregon and graduated from Vale High School (early) in 1944. At VHS, John was active in the boxing club, football and drama.\n\nJohn joined the Army Air Corps in February 1944. Upon completion of basic and advanced training, John joined the 8th Air Force, 487th Squadren of the Army Air Corp (now the U. S. Air Force), in Lavenham, England. The 487th Bombardment Group was affectionately known as "The Gentlemen From Hell". John was the Ball Turret Gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress crew piloted by 1/Lt. Paul T. Kohr.\n\nOn Dec. 24, 1944 the Kohr Crew joined 2034 B-17's and B-24's, and 936 Fighters in the greatest single force of airplanes ever dispatched in US Military history on a bombing raid over Germany. On March 17, 1945, the Kohr Crew was on their 30th bombing mission. Their target was an oil refinery near Ruland, Germany. After dropping their bombs, the plane was hit by flack, causing an engine fire. This was the third time they had been hit, but the previous two times they were able to return to friendly airfields for emergency landings. With this hit there was too much fire on board to attempt continued flight. Lt. Kohr ordered the crew to bail out. All crew members survived the jump but were immediately captured. As POW's they were continually moving, sometimes by ground transportation, but mostly in forced marches. They were eventually liberated by the Third Infantry Division of the U.S. Seventh Army. John lost over 40 pounds during his time as a POW.\n\nJohn returned the to United States for medical attention, recuperation and was assigned to a reserve unit. He then began working for the telephone company as a lineman and engineer. He met LaVelle Graven during this time and they were married on August 17, 1946. John and LaVelle had three children, Ted, Rhonda, and John Laine. They divorced in 1973.\n\nJohn began his 38 year career with the Oregon Department of Transportation in 1947, between active duty assignments. He worked in Bates, Hereford, Fossil, Baker City (twice), and LaGrande. He retired as a Maintenance Supervisor in Baker City in December 1985.\n\nJohn was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and served until 1952. His commanding officer encouraged him to attend Officer Candidate Training but John opted for civilian life. He had 9 years of service at the time of his discharge. John's service medals included a Purple Hearts, Air Medal with Oak Cluster, WW11 Victory Medal, and European Campaign Medal.\n\nDue to injuries suffered during his POW time, John was later granted a service related disability. These injuries impacted him throughout his life. In 2006, John was inducted into the Oregon Military Hall of Fame. Former Governor, Vic Atiyeh presented John with his Memorial Plaque recognizing his service and sacrifices as a former POW.\n\nJohn married Helen Cox on June 5, 1975, they divorced in 1981. John then married Colleen Brady Compton on July 2, 1982. They spent 32 1/2 years together before Colleen's death on January 8, 2015. The past 2 years John and Colleen were cared for by Colleen's daughter-in-law, Anita Compton. John's family is extremely grateful for Anita's care and compassion in making their final years together comfortable in their home.\n\nJohn always looked forward to fall hunting season to arrive. John joined his sons, grandsons and son-in-law for sharing good times and retelling past great hunting events. John loved to golf and was a long time player at the Baker City Golf course. He participated in many local and regional golf tournaments. He also loved to interact with children, and especially enjoyed entertaining and teasing his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.\n\nJohn was preceded in death by his beloved wife Colleen, parents Daniel and Gertrude Atkinson, brothers Clinton and James Atkinson, sister Martha (Atkinson) Nutting, and 15 half siblings. He is survived by his children, Ted (Patty) Atkinson, Rhonda (Herb) Hickman, and John Laine (Vicki) Atkinson, seven Grandchildren and half-sisters, Elvita (Ray) Griffen , Carolyn Atkinson, and Ethelene Atkinson. Also surviving are Stepchildren Jo Compton (Dee Wilson), Brian (Pam) Compton, Jeff (Anita) Compton, Matt Compton, Tom (Kandy) Compton, and Chris (Tracy) Compton and many Step -Grandchildren.\n\nJohn was an enrolled member of the Northern Cherokee Nation, White River Band. One of his Great Grandfathers served under Confederate General, Stand Waite (Cherokee Regiments) during the Civil War. John was also a member of the VFW, Baker City Chapter,\n\nIn lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Air Force Aide Society, Alzheimer's research, or the Baker City VFW Chapter in John's honor.