American Veteran 01

Alan John "AJ" Grill, PhD

August 28, 1931 ~ August 19, 2020 (age 88)


Alan John (“AJ”) Grill, PhD, Colonel USAF (Retired), formerly of State College and Nottingham Village, Northumberland passed away on Wednesday evening, August 19, 2020 at home with his children.  

Alan (nee Alfred) was born on August 28, 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was the son of Valentine F. and Mary Grill, immigrants from Slovenia.  AJ’s father died when AJ was six years old.  His mother Mary raised him and his brothers as a single mother with support from extended family and the Slovenian community of Cleveland.

He was preceded in death by his wife Claire who died on June 7, 2020, ending a marital union of nearly 66 years.  He was also preceded in death by his parents, his infant sister Dorothy and two brothers, Valentine and Ludwig.

AJ was a talented musician, playing the saxophone and clarinet.  In 1950 he enlisted in the Air Force as a member of the Air Force Band.  In 1953 he earned an officer’s commission as a navigator and went on to become a pilot.  The Air Force sent AJ to the University of Chicago where he earned a Master’s of Business Administration degree.

AJ and Claire raised their five children during moves around the US and Europe.  They taught their children the importance of family, hard work, striving to use their talents to the fullest, being honest and treating all people with respect.

AJ served in the Vietnam conflict during 1968 and 1969 as a forward air controller, flying a small Cessna

O-2 over Laos and Vietnam.  During the years 1973 to 1977, he served as the Professor of Aerospace Studies (Air Force ROTC) at the Pennsylvania State University.  After Penn State, his final military assignment was at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas as Commander of the 3785th Field Training Group, in which he was responsible for Air Force flight training operations around the world.  In 1979 he retired from the Air Force with 29 years of service, accumulating over 4,000 hours of flying time as an instructor and test pilot, primarily in jet fighter aircraft.   Among his military decorations were the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit.

After his retirement from the Air Force, AJ began a second career at Penn State.  He served for 16 years as Assistant to the Dean in the College of Education.  While employed at Penn State he earned a Master’s of Education degree and a Doctorate in Higher Education.

AJ enjoyed fishing and hunting and often took his children along with him.  In his mid-30s he began to play golf and quickly became an avid golfer.  He loved playing golf with his sons and his buddies at Centre Hills CC.  He was also a member of State College’s Little German Band, playing with them for many years.  AJ also delivered Meals on Wheels and was a holiday bell ringer for the Salvation Army.

Surviving are his children, David Grill and wife Lestia, of Lewisburg; Christy Kale and husband, John Barton, of Austin, TX; Kelly Grill, of Brooklyn, NY; Derek Grill, of Dewart; and Kathleen Senior and husband, James, of Charlotte, NC; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

AJ was a devout Catholic and in recent years attended the Holy Spirit American National Catholic Church of Montandon.

Graveside services for AJ and his wife, Claire, will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Slovene Home for the Aged, 18621 Neff Road, Cleveland, OH 44119.

The family is being assisted by Cronrath-Grenoble Funeral Home, 106 S. Second St., Lewisburg.

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