Vietnam vet from Gallitzen wills support to Derry Township animal shelter
Vietnam veteran John Futey Jr. lived a quiet life, but the actions he put in to place before his death a year ago this week speak loudly about his kindness and generosity for his greatest passion, his pets and the plight of sheltered animals.
Futey, 63, developed lung cancer, attributed to Agent Orange from his time in Vietnam, according to family members. Herbicide Orange is one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.
Before Futey died, he willed all proceeds from the auctioning of his belongings to Action for Animals in Derry Township.
“My brother John was a fan of animals all of his life,” said Irene Szynal, 72, of Gallitzen. “He never had children. But, he had many pets. Those animals were his life.”
Szynal said her brother always made donations to area shelters and kennels.
So when the time arrived to make out his will, Szynal was not surprised when he decided to donate all proceeds from the sale of his possessions and house to a local shelter.
“That was his life,” she said. “What he had, he wanted to leave for the animals at Action for Animals.”
Szynal said her brother moved to Ligonier from Somerset to be near a beloved pet, who was buried in a nearby pet cemetery. The ashes of another dog, Fawn, were buried with Futey.
Szynal said her brother was very patriotic and loved his country.
“I don’t know much about what he did in the Army but I remember him talking about the Signal Corps,” Szynal said.
According to his discharge papers, he entered the Army in October 1970, and was discharged May 5, 1972. He was a Specialist 4 and worked as an Adjutant General Officer in the Signal Corps. He was a member of the Fort Ligonier Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 734 and a lifetime member of Byers-Tosh American Legion Post 267.
Szynal said her brother first fell ill in 2010. He retired from Westmoreland Mechanical Testing and Research Inc. in 2011.
Szynal thinks her brother purchased a Harley Davidson Sportster motorcycle to help him battle cancer.
When the cycle was delivered to his West Vincent home, he had a contractor friend drive it to a storage facility in Laughlintown.
“He thought he would get better. He bought the bike and even renewed his passport so he could visit Poland,” she said.
Futey lost his battle with lung cancer Nov. 4, 2013.
“Vietnam veterans like my brother (who realized he had complications attributed to Agent Orange in 2011) came back from Vietnam appearing that nothing happened to them there. But, what you don’t realize is they sacrificed too. It just took years to happen.”
Belongings auctioned for sheltered animals
Szynal said the house has not sold yet. The estate will remain open until all items are sold. At that time, the proceeds will go to Action for Animals.
Several items from the home, however, are already being put to good use at the shelter.
“When we cleaned out the house, we asked the shelter workers to come to the house to see what they could use. They loaded up cages, heaters, fans and other pet items to take to the shelter.
She said her brother’s car was sold with proceeds going to the shelter.
Szynal hired Kathleen Mack to sell her brother’s motorcycle, a riding lawn mower and other household items at the West Fairfield auction barn in New Florence.
Mack said she sold the motorcycle for $6,000 to another Vietnam veteran.
Most of the household items were sold at an auction Oct. 25.
“He was into electronics. Everything he had was top quality, tools and electronics,” Mack said.
The auction netted $1,300, all going to AFA.
“When we went to the storage shed to get the bike, we found a camp chair and a small table with a motorcycle driver’s manual,” Mack said.
“I guess he would go there and tinker with the bike, hoping he would one day get his license and ride it.”
Mack said Futey represents the typical American veteran.
“He was still giving back to his country in one form or another,” Mack said. “I am happy he is receiving this recognition for his generosity and service to his country.”
Humane society praises veteran’s generosity
Rita Whiteman, president of the board of governors for Action for Animals Humane Society in Derry Township, said they first heard about Futey’s donation, when the group was contacted by Mack several months ago.
“We have had people leave bequests before, but this is a huge amount,” Whiteman said. “It is sad we have to receive so much and he’s not here to see it put to good use. It’s certainly going to help with the cost of maintaining our shelter.”
Whiteman said it takes $1,500 a week to run the shelter. There are 150-200 animals currently on site.
“We take in a lot of animals that are hurt or elderly. We take care of all of them and get them adopted.”
She said Futey made donations to the shelter several times in the past.
“In fact, a photograph of John and his dog, Fawn, was in one of our calendars a few years ago,” Whiteman said. “He would make in memoriam tributes in our newsletter. We received support from John at least two times a year.”
Whiteman said the shelter is in its 31st year and is the oldest shelter in Westmoreland County.
“It’s like Christmas in July, when someone does this for us,” Whiteman said. “We are overwhelmed with his generosity.”
Szynal said her brother never liked being in the spotlight.
“He never got the credit he deserved for serving his country,” Szynal said. “He is finally getting the recognition he deserves.”
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.