Bartolich, Gene


Gene Bartolich rejoined his loving wife of sixty-six years, Jeanne Mahan, inside the Kingdom of Heaven on February 6, 2024. He was born in Swissvale, PA, then prospered for 95 years serving as a Colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF), a college professor for nearly two decades and a father to three sons: Bruce of Richmond, VA, Chris of Amherst, MA, and Allan of Atlanta, GA. Gene was the son of Jacob Bartolich and Julia Granita.

After graduating from Vandergrift High School in 1946, Gene entered the US Naval Reserves and began a robust and amazing career. He became a Midshipman in 1948, then joined the USAF in 1951 as a distinguished graduate of the Aviation Cadet program. Gene was assigned to the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing in Korea flying over 100 missions as squadron leader in 1952. Later that year, Gene was elevated to flight instructor at Craig AFB in AL.

Jeanne's mother, working as a librarian at Craig AFB, was instrumental in getting Gene and Jeanne together. They were married in 1954 in Selma, AL. Gene then attended the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, earning a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. After serving in Japan, Maxwell AFB, AL, and Vance AFB, OK, he continued his stellar academic career gaining his Master's Degree in Industrial Engineering at the Univ. of Pittsburgh in 1969.

Gene was then assigned to Vietnam as a Squadron Commander and flew as a combat mission pilot. He managed 150 aircraft, 700 service members and devised a superior control system for the maintenance of aircraft equipment. Gene rejoined the family at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, HI in January, 1970 as Chief of PACAF Aircraft Maintenance. In 1973, he became Professor of Air Science studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Gene's final assignment was at Fort Lee Army Base in Petersburg, VA where he managed the logistics in NORAD's largest region.

Gene had more than 4000 combat flying hours and his numerous military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medal. His superiors consistently rated his performance as exceptional and Gene retired with high honors. "The Air Force made me appreciate everyday. Not all of the soldiers that left were able to come back."

However, Gene was far from calling it a career. After retiring from the USAF in 1981, he soon received an MBA from Chapman College and was one of the faculty at the newly formed Ph.D. program in the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. After receiving his Ph.D., Gene and Jeanne decided to depart Virginia and move to Jeanne's home state in Montevallo, AL. He became an Associate Professor at the Univ. of Montevallo. Gene was always available to his students for post-class tutoring.

After ten years in Montevallo, Gene and Jeanne moved back to Virginia in 1999, this time settling in historic Williamsburg. He joined the faculty at St. Leo's University at Langley AFB and continued to teach for the next six years.

Gene and Jeanne moved back to Alabama in 2016, this time settling in Huntsville. After Jeanne passed in 2020, Gene moved to Atlanta, GA in 2022 and lived his remaining two years at Village Park Senior Living in Peachtree Corners only minutes away from his youngest son. He continued to make close friends until his last days.

Gene was always supportive of the sports and scholastic activities of his sons. There are two Master's degrees and a Bachelor's degree among them. In tandem with Jeanne, they both had a discerning interest and keen eye for great artwork. Gene was an efficient left-handed power hitter on industrial baseball teams while working in the steel mills in Pittsburgh. He also loved to play golf. Interestingly though, Gene never cared to keep score of his rounds.

Perhaps one of the best traits Gene possessed was his humility. Despite the fact that he had a brilliant military career, he was a regular father after coming home and taking off his uniform. If you wanted to know about his flying or career you would have to ask him and he would gladly share. Otherwise, one would not know he was even in the military. There was never a medal displayed.

Gene will be buried beside Jeanne and her family members at the New Live Oak Cemetary in Selma, AL.

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