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Chaplain John Stevey's prayer still comforts deploying troops
John Stevey's quiet demeanor made him an easy-to-approach counselor as an Army chaplain and, later, a seminary professor.
He incorporated that subtle guidance into the prayer he was asked to compose to remind Green Berets of the spiritual nature of their missions.
"He was a very gentle, kind individual," said the Rev. William Underwood, retired pastor of the Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Greensburg, where Mr. Stevey was ordained. "He was not one to pull rank on anyone, but just to be one with whoever he was talking to."
John E. Stevey of Trotwood, Ohio, formerly of Greensburg, died Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, in his home. He was 78.
Mr. Stevey, a 1949 graduate of Jeannette High School, entered the Army in 1957 as a chaplain with the 18th Airborne Corps Artillery after earning his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in religious studies and Christian education at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.
In 1960, he was sent to South Korea with the 82nd Airborne. When he returned to the United States a year later, Mr. Stevey was assigned to the 77th Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C.
While stationed there, Special Forces Commander Gen. William Yarborough asked Mr. Stevey to write a prayer for the Green Berets who were shipping out to Laos. Since then, soldiers in the Army's Special Forces unit carry the prayer, printed on a small, laminated card, when they deploy overseas.
"For many years nobody knew who wrote it," said his niece, Naomi "Cricket" Cycak of Ligonier. "He was very quiet about things."
In 1977, Col. Stevey retired from the Army. He then served as chaplain and director of placement at Nyack College in Nyack, N.Y., until 1980, when he was hired as dean of students and an associate professor of counseling and ministry for the college's Alliance Theological Seminary, a position he held for a decade.
Most recently, he was the chaplain at the Dayton VA Medical Center, in Dayton, Ohio.
Mr. Stevey's sister Naomi "Cookie" Kelly of Parker, Colo., said her brother was just as dedicated to his family.
"He was a wonderful son and brother and father," she said. "There was no time that we didn't have a good time. We had one of those homes that just laughed all the time."
In addition to his sister and niece, he is survived by his wife, Joan Swiger Stevey; a son, Joel Stevey of Trotwood, Ohio; and a sister, Mary Jane Connell of Ireland. Mr. Stevey was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Naomi Jones Stevey; brother, Albert E. "Butch" Stevey; and sister, Nancy Richard.
Family and friends will be received from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the narthex of the Greensburg Alliance Church in Hempfield. The funeral service will begin at 1 p.m. Interment will follow in Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield. Barnhart Funeral Home of Greensburg is assisting with arrangements.