John Hunter Orr

08/05/1939 - 06/04/2021


Obituary For John Hunter Orr

John Hunter Orr
Aug. 5, 1939-June 4, 2021

John Hunter Orr, 81, of Altoona, passed away Friday, June 4th. He was born in Carlisle, PA, son of the late James D. and Virginia M. (Hunter) Orr. He married his beloved Olga (Marinelli) on Aug. 21, 1961, in Cape May Court House, NJ and she preceded him in death July 9th, 2012.
Surviving are his children: Johnny and wife Wendy of Flemington, NJ, Tanya Orr Bird and husband Eliot, of Richmond, VA, and William and wife Michele, of Richmond, VA; six grandchildren: Alexander, J. Grady, and Hunter Orr, Annie and Will Bird, and Lily Orr.
He was preceded in death by two brothers: James and Douglas Orr; and a sister Maude Orr.
John was a 1957 graduate of Altoona High School, and a graduate of Penn State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian and a master’s degree in Slavic languages. He was a US Army veteran of the Vietnam War, stationed in Paris where he served in Army Intelligence. John retired from the Altoona Area School District in 1998 after teaching Russian and English for 30 years. He loved teaching both in and out of the classroom and was not afraid to ‘push the envelope’ as a means of helping his students to develop their own principles and learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think.
John’s true loves were Olga, his family, and Altoona. He had many interests and passions, including the arts, coins, stamps, trees, books, newspapers, movies, journaling, Penn State and Princeton wrestling, ice cream, traveling, and foreign languages. He was an ardent birder. He began this lifelong passion as a young boy with a pair of binoculars that were a gift from his parents. His love of the outdoors continued as a member of the Boy Scouts where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He went on to become the founder of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society in 1969 and served as the first president and editor of the newsletter The Gnatcatcher for many years. He looked forward to the annual Christmas bird count in Sinking Valley that he participated in for the past 52 years. In 1984 the National Audubon Society presented him with the William Dutcher Award for “outstanding service to the Audubon cause at the regional level”.
He was a writer of poetry, short-stories, and folktales. He collaborated with local artist Joe Servello on a series of local folktales that appeared in the Altoona Mirror.
John enjoyed art and museums immensely. He especially loved collecting works by local artists including Joe Servello, Jory Albright, Helen Gorsuch, and Scott Steberger. In 2015 he had 35 works of art on display at the Southern Allegheny Museum of Arts in an exhibit entitled “The Heart and Soul of Olga and John Orr”.
As a young man John spent summers working with many friends at the shore in Wildwood, NJ where he met his wife, formed life-long friendships, and was the first person to cut fudge in the Douglass Candies window.
John was a champion of feminism and equal rights, he was deeply bothered in his heart by prejudice, meanness, and ignorance. His kind and gentle soul will be sorely missed by his many friends and loving family.
Friends will be received from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Friday, June 25, 2021 at The Stevens Mortuary, Inc. 1421 8th Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.
Condolences may be made at or Stevens Family Funeral Homes Facebook.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to support the new Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State, to which John was a significant donor. Gifts can be made online at or via check, payable to Penn State, to Donor and Member Services, 2583 Gateway Drive, Suite 130, State College, PA 16801. If contributing by check, please indicate that your gift is in John Orr’s memory, so the family can acknowledge it.

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  • I am honored to call John my friend. I will miss our talks in my shop during his Holiday visits. I was able to see him in passing around town and He was always able to spend time to talk. I would try to consume the wealth of knowledge that He was able to share. I am sad to hear the news of John's passing. He will now be with His Loving Wife Olga whom I was also privileged to meet. I send my Sympathy to His Loving Family of which John was so proud. My thoughts and prayers as you miss your Father, but celebrate a Life Well Lived!! Sincerely, Lee Anne Ehredt, Green Home Goods.

  • Our condolences to John's family. Bob and Linda Reffner

  • On behalf of my whole family, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to you on the loss of your beloved father, John. He will be missed. Maxine Weinberg

  • My mother was Mary Elizabeth Orr, sister of James D. Orr., who was the father of John Orr. Everyone in my family adored John Orr, a kind, gentle soul who took care of my mother in her final years since we (Karen, Tim, Amos and Andrew) lived so far away. She loved John Orr. As so eloquently described in his obituary, John had so many talents and interests which made him a joy to be with for long stretches of time. I loved being with him when I came to Altoona which often led to long conversations at our favorite Italian restaurant, Lena's. I am so happy that John spearheaded and organized the Orr reunion in 2007. Indeed, John provided us with joyous memories. I'm having a hard time imagining myself returning to Altoona and not seeing and having long conversations with him. His children and grandchildren need to know how special and kind he was to everyone. I hope that his children will contact me at 225-921-0771 or Warmly, Amos H. Davis

  • Mr. Orr was the best teacher ever. He was intelligent, understanding, and gave insight to me and other students. He was the best! Paul Stubler Altoona High School class of 1970.

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Funeral Directors

Joseph J. Stevens III

Matthew J. McConville

Christopher J. Feathers

David J. Mason