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John Robert Phelan

September 11, 1920 September 14, 2013
John Robert Phelan
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Obituary for John Robert Phelan

PEORIA - John Robert Phelan, 93, of Peoria, passed away at 1:55 a.m., Saturday, September 14, 2013, at OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home in Peoria. He was born September 11, 1920, at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria to John Joseph and Margaret Ellen (Woods) Phelan. He married Mary Mitchell at St. John Catholic Church in Bradford on August 20, 1946. She died May 27, 2008. He was preceded also in death by his son, Edward Phelan; grandson, Blake James Phelan; and brother, James Phelan. He is survived by three sons, John (Dee) Phelan of Garner, NC, Michael (Bev) Phelan of Naperville, and Brian (Angela) Phelan of Ashburn, VA; two daughters, Molly (Ed) Black, Jr. of Peoria and Regina (Ron) Wesley of Surprise, AZ; one daughter-in-law, Paula Phelan of Indianapolis, IN; 14 grandchildren, Shane (Erica) Phelan, Brehyan (Pete) Kurtz, William Phelan, Nora (Aaron) Burkhart, Katherine Phelan, Christopher (Marie) Phelan, Ed (Nicole) Black, Mallory (Martin) Hansen, Sean Wesley, Christopher (Megan) Wesley, Kiera Wesley, Annelise Phelan, Mitchell Phelan, and Caitlin Phelan; and six great-grandchildren, Ava Phelan, Blake Phelan, Griffin Phelan, Taylor Hansen, Cole Phelan, and Rebecca Burkhart. John Robert attended St. Bernard’s School and graduated high school from Spalding Institute. Following graduation, he joined the apprentice program at Caterpillar Tractor Company. In July 1943, he was sworn into the United States Navy in Chicago. He served in WWII on the USS Alpine until his discharge in April 1946. After his discharge from the military, he returned to Caterpillar, where a coworker introduced John Robert to the “answer to his prayers”, Mary Mitchell. After a very brief courtship, they wed, started a family, and remained constant companions for nearly 62 years, always staying true to their Catholic faith. John Robert was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Spalding Council #427, Third Degree for over 70 years and served as Grand Knight from 1968 to 1970. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Spalding Assembly #206, Fourth Degree, often serving as honor guard to the Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria. John was very active in every parish to which they belonged, including St. Cecilia and St. Vincent de Paul in Peoria, Our Lady of Lourdes in Sun City, AZ, and St. Clare of Assisi in Surprise, AZ. After John’s retirement from the Caterpillar in 1982, John and Mary enjoyed many winters in Arizona, eventually moving to the Phoenix Valley in 1993. John also traveled to Ireland with Mary and their sons to visit extended family in Ireland and the Phelan family farm located in Mullinavat in County Kilkenny. After Mary’s passing, John remained in Arizona until January 2013 when he decided to return to Peoria to live out the remainder of his life. A funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, September 17, 2013, at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church with the Rev. James Pallardy officiating. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday, September 16, 2013, at Wright & Salmon Mortuary with recitation of the Rosary at 6:45 p.m. Additional visitation will be 30 minutes before the Mass at the church. Entombment will be in Resurrection Mausoleum. Memorials may be made to OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home, 8630 Illinois 91, Peoria, IL 61615 or the Knights of Columbus, Spalding Council #427, 7403 N. Radnor Road, Peoria, IL 61615. Tributes and condolences may be submitted to


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