Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper
Monday, June 24, 2002
By Sally A. Downey, Inquirer Staff Writer
JOHN A. TELLEFSEN, 80, BUSINESS OWNER and WWII PRISONER
John A. Tellefsen, 80, of Newtown Square, a construction company owner who kept a diary of his experiences in a German prisoner-of-war camp, died of pneumonia Friday at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
During World War II, he joined the Army Air Corps and was stationed in Dalhart, Texas, where he met his wife, Virginia Wilkinson. After a three-week courtship, they married, and the next week he was shipped overseas to be a navigator on B-17s.
He was shot down twice. The first time he landed in England. Thirteen missions later, in April 1944, he was shot down near Augsburg, Germany.
When he landed, he broke his foot and was quickly surrounded by farmers with pitchforks; one of them had a gun.
He told the men in German that he was unarmed. Mr. Tellefsen, who was raised in New Jersey, had had two years of German at Collingswood High School.
He was imprisoned in the camp for more than a year.
His souvenirs from the ordeal included a Purple Heart, a permanent limp, and a poster from the camp that warned prisoners that they would be shot if they attempted an escape.
His experiences were chronicled in the book Fifty Years After the War. Following his discharge, Mr. Tellefsen earned an engineering degree by attending night school at Drexel Institute of Technology. During the day, he worked as an estimator for Robert G. Hoffer Concrete Construction Co. in Bala Cynwyd.
As a 12-year-old, he had carried water to the construction company's laborers - including his brother and father.
In 1965, he bought the company. He sold it 21 years later when he retired.
Mr. Tellefsen collected miniature pocket knives and toy concrete mixers and was a member of the Overbrook Golf Club.
Before moving to Newtown Square last year, he had been a longtime resident of Haverford.
His wife of 58 years died last year. He is survived by his two daughters; two brothers; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
There will be a funeral service at 1 p.m. today at D'Anjolell Funeral Home, 2811 West Chester Pike, Broomall. Friends may call at noon. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Marple Township.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Lung Association, 535 Plymouth Rd., Plymouth Meeting, Pa. 19462.
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