Kissed by an Angel, Where Violins are the Angels’ Voices, and the Cello Sings Harmony.
John Commons Bird died peacefully on Sunday, December 29, 2013. He was 91.
John was born on November 16, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois to Dr. Francis H. Bird, Dean of the University of Cincinnati Business School and Harriet Mackay (Smith) Bird, University of Cincinnati librarian. They moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where John graduated from Walnut Hills High School. He was a Boy Scout, Star rank, and a successful amateur magician. He graduated from Dartmouth College, class of 1944, in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he was a champion debater and president of Delta Upsilon fraternity.
At age 19, Pearl Harbor was bombed. As a member of the Greatest Generation, John joined the Navy where he served on a Landing Ship Medium in the Pacific Theater. At age 23, he became captain of LSM 156. Under John’s command, there were no casualties.
After the war, John graduated with honors from the University of Cincinnati Law School. Upon graduation, he married Irene Elizabeth Grogloth from Hammond, Indiana, June 12, 1948. They were married for 45 years. John enjoyed a stellar career as a labor lawyer with United States Steel. He was the youngest lawyer ever hired in the USS Law Department. Among his accomplishments were receiving the honor to argue cases before the United States Supreme Court; serving as Assistant Secretary for USS; and becoming a Kentucky Colonel bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky. While working for USS Homes Division in New Albany, Indiana, John and Irene had 3 children in Louisville, Kentucky: Elizabeth Anne Bird (Gellert), Tacoma, WA; John Traill Bird, Birmingham, AL; and Bruce Mackay Bird, Roswell, GA. In 1958, John was promoted to Labor Relations and transferred to USS’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In 1966, he was promoted to Senior General Attorney, Southern Division, and was transferred to Birmingham, Alabama. He resided in Mountain Brook until 2008. Then John resided at Brookdale Place (formerly Somerby) where he was still active as an arbitrator until age 88. Three of John’s most rewarding memberships were Downtown Kiwanis, where he served as a board member 1992-1993; John was also a board member for the Birmingham Zoological Society; and John was an active member since 1966 of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. He was a Mid-Alabama Republican and a proud patriot. John served as a precinct clerk for elections in Mountain Brook from 1980-2005. He was an adjunct professor at Birmingham- Southern College teaching labor law. John is listed in Who’s Who in America.
John was preceded in death by his wife, Irene, in 1993. He is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird Gellert, son-in-law, Jeffrey David Gellert, his grandchildren, Joshua Mackay Gellert and Jonathan David Gellert; his son, John Traill Bird; and his son Bruce Mackay Bird, daughter-in-law Cynthia (Cindy) Mejia Bird; step-grandchildren Stephanie Ehret Harrelson, Thomas Ehret and Caroline Ehret.
Thank you for your service, Captain Bird. May you rest in peace.