John H. Sheally II

Published 7:24 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

Award winning photojournalist John H. Sheally II, at 80 years old, closed the book on his lengthy career at 3:56 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

The gift of a Brownie camera, when he was eight years old, inspired his dream of capturing images of breaking news, personalities, sports and the beauty of the world around him. He was still in Hopewell High School in Hopewell when he shot photos for the local newspaper.

After a five-year enlistment as an aerial photographer in the U.S. Navy, John returned home to Hopewell, where he met and married Donna Shelton – the beginning of a 52-year partnership – and where their daughter, Kate, was born.

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He also launched a career with the Progress Index newspaper in Petersburg, earning recognition for his photo coverage of local news as well as the political scene in Richmond. His success there led him to join the staff of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper where he and his camera were a familiar sight across southeast Virginia and North Carolina. “You can’t find good stories sitting in the newsroom,” was his motto.

Early in life John discovered Morgan sports cars and became an internationally recognized expert on the British marque, publishing several books about Morgans. He owned and raced a medley of classic Morgans for 40 years, traveling to the competitions in his restored black 1939 Chevrolet grain bed truck/turned race car hauler.

He retired from The Virginian-Pilot in 2008 and, with writer Phyllis Speidell, created and published more than a score of books chronicling the history and people of greater Hampton Roads. Their work also appeared frequently in numerous regional and national magazines. He was proud of “Preserving the history of Hampton Roads, one book at a time.”

Outshining all his interests and accomplishments, however, was his love for his family, friends and animals of all species. They were the key to his real happiness in life.

He was predeceased by his parents, Katharine and John H. Sheally Sr. and his beloved wife, Donna Sheally. John is survived by their daughter, Donna Kate Smellie and son-in-law Michael Sean Smellie; their son, Henry and their daughter, Kristin and her three children – Ben, Elysia and Darith Lee. He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Brady Rackley of Athens, Georgia and their sons – Brady Lee and John Brant Rackley.

John was a good man with a big heart, positive mind, endless enthusiasm and lively sense of humor that leave his family and friends with an abundance of fond memories and happy stories.

John was a member of Bible World Church in Chesapeake.

The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Dec. 14, at Bible World Church. His funeral service will begin at noon at the church. Burial with military honors will be at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at Albert G. Horton Jr. Veterans Cemetery. 

In lieu of flowers, donations to the church will be appreciated and may be sent to Bible World, 600 Happy Acres Road, Chesapeake, VA 23323. 757-487-9503

Sturtevant Funeral Home, Portsmouth Boulevard Chapel is handling arrangements.