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There’s a lot to like about John Reed. The 6'3" lawyer is friendly, smart, and astute. His demeanor is trustworthy and calm—good qualities to have when you’re babysitting nuclear missiles.
Reed was born and raised in the rural town of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a state policeman and his mother an executive at a redevelopment authority. Reed admired his father and his work. “My father didn’t have a lot of education. He dropped out of school to help support his family and then later got his GED, but as early as I can remember, my father always said his boys were going to go to college,” Reed shares. So that’s what he did. He went to Penn State and studied finance because he says numbers always made sense to him, although he wasn’t sure what he would do with the degree once he graduated. “Between my second and third year, I ran into a recruiter on campus. He started talking about the military. It made sense. It was a job. I would go do something. So I signed up with the recruiter. I went home and told my dad what I’d done,” Reed says with laughter. “He wasn’t very happy.”
Upon completion of his degree, Reed did a bootstrap program with the Air Force to get his commission and in 1985 went active as a second lieutenant. “When I joined, I wanted to do something operational. I couldn’t fly—I have bad eyes and a bad knee. I didn’t want to be behind a desk, and missiles was one of the other operational areas.” Reed moved to California and trained for almost a year to become a Missile Combat Control Officer of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program. He went from California to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to the base where he was stationed at for four years. It was in Cheyenne where he met and married his wife, Carole—affectionately called a “military brat.”
Often to get to the missile control centers, he would take a helicopter when he’d leave the base. “Upon arrival, you’d go down underground into the missile control center and you’d sit in an area with machinery on both sides and a cot in the middle,” he says as he paints the picture. “You were out there for about thirty hours at a time and you waited for your relief to come the next day—if they didn’t get snowed out.” The unique career field was small—about 1800 people. “I went in expecting it to be a career. It was a great job: the people I met, the job I did, and the feeling I had putting the uniform on was great,” he says with sincerity. Two things thwarted that plan. Reed’s father passed away unexpectedly and administrations were changing over—from Reagan and Bush to Clinton. “Military funding always ebbs and flows. Often programs and program dollars are impacted when administrations change, especially from one party to the next, so it just seemed like a good time to get out,” he says.
Reed and Carole were living in California, no kids, a mile from the beach, living in a beautiful house on the base. “I went out for a motorcycle ride one day came back, and I told my wife we should put our paperwork in and get out of the military. I told her, ‘I think I want to go to law school.’” And just like that, the two packed up their lives, quit their jobs, and moved to Pittsburgh—where Reed could be closer to his family and would hopefully get accepted to law school. They left California in 1992 and never looked back.
Between Reed’s second and third year of law school at Duquesne, he interned with Barley Snyder, LLP and was offered a position. Together, Reed and Carole decided to start a family. In August of 1996 they arrived in Lancaster, had their first son in 1998 and twin boys in 2000.
Now his days are a mixture of counseling closely-held family businesses and working on mergers and acquisitions at Barley Snyder and spending quality time with his family. He spends time sharing his experienced advice with members at the S. Dale High Center for Family Business and serving on various boards and committees like the Lancaster City Alliance, CRIZ, and the Wenger Group.
Reed admits outside of his work his family is his life. His boys enjoy camping in upstate New York, at the exact spot where Reed and his father, mother, and brother used to pitch their tents. “They are some of the best memories I have,” he says. His greatest enjoyment comes when his family is sitting around the table, talking about life, football, or politics. “I was always told teenage boys would stop talking, that they’ll go quiet on you. That hasn’t happened at my house,” he says with laughter. His oldest son is looking at colleges and considering the military. Reed reiterates the advice he gives to his sons often: “Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday.”