John "Johnny" Phelps West, 95, of North Branford, CT, formerly of Basking Ridge, NJ and Harwichport, MA passed away peacefully at home on September 28, 2016. He is survived by his children and their spouses - Judy and John Phelps West, Jr. of Cotati, CA, Donald and Nancy West Hannah of Phoenix, AZ, Nell and Davenport West, III of Annapolis, MD, and Jim and Betsy West Sneath of Branford, CT, - plus 15 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth Kearney West, and their youngest daughter, Wendy Phelps West Brenninkmeijer, as well as by his brother, Davenport West, Jr.
Johnny grew up in Manhattan, NY, the son of Dr. Davenport and Dorothy Phelps West. He graduated from the Choate School in 1939 and Princeton University in 1943 with a degree in Engineering.
After graduating from Princeton, Johnny spend three and a half years in the U.S. Navy as an Lt. (jg) at the U.S. Havel Engineering Experiment Station in Annapolis, MD, first as a Test Engineer in charge of testing diesel fuel oil filters and engine accessories, and second as an Assistant Ship Superintendent responsible for the supervision and expedition of repairs to ships' hulls and machinery.
From 1946 through 1953 he worked as a Research Engineer for the Bakelite Division of the Union Carbide Corporation in Bloomfield, NJ. In 1953, wanting to work for a smaller company to gain broader business knowledge, he became the Chief Engineer at Kenro Graphics in Chatham, NJ. When Kenro downsized in 1958 Johnny moved to Morgan Development Laboratory in Westport, CT. In 1959, he moved to the packaging design department at Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ where he remained until his retirement in 1986.
An avid antique car enthusiast, in 1935 at the age of 15, Johnny bought his first car at Cape Cod, a 1925 Model T touring sedan for $7.50. In 1940, a fellow car enthusiast bought a 1914 Model T Touring Sedan, and Johnny bought a 1909 Stanley Steamer, both for a total of $75. In 1941 he bought a 1909 Buick Touring Sedan in which he and his wife, Libby, did the New England Glidden Tour in 1954. His collection also included a 1916 Lancia Runabout and a 1932 Chevrolet "Woody" station wagon which was given to him by a great aunt and remains in the family. In addition to his cars, he bought his favorite surf boat in 1934 for $80.
Johnny spent his "leisure" time mechanically restoring his antique cars. The last of the cars to be sold was the Stanley Steamer in 2003. Up until his death, he was actively designing and building an electronic temperature gauge, aka "the bomb", for the Stanley Steamer.
Johnny will be remembered most for being a true gentleman, in addition to his kindness to others, patience, generosity, sense of humor, and love of a good martini. He loved nothing more than being surrounded by family and friends.
A private family service will be held at the Phelps family Mausoleum in Simsbury, CT.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to charities that support either veterans or medical research in the areas of cancer, ALS, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy.
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