COLUMBIA, S.C. — Jack Van Loan, a leader in the Five Points community, has passed.

Van Loan served as the executive director of The Five Points Association for 20 years and has been credited with helping create the popular Five Points St. Patrick's Day Celebration.

He settled in Columbia after retiring from the US Air Force at the rank of colonel after 30 years of service.

According to his biography posted at his alma mater Oregon State University, Van Loan served as a pilot assigned with the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam on May 20, 1967, and spent the next six years at the notorious Hanoi Hilton prisoner of war camp, along with fellow serviceman John McCain. Van Loan recorded an oral history about the experience at Oregon State University's Sesquicentennial Oral History Project.

Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine wrote on Twitter, "saddened to hear about the passing of Colonel Jack Van Loan. Columbia is better because of him.

The Five Points Association released a statement Tuesday afternoon that reads, in part. "A patriotic and selfless Vietnam POW returnee, Col. Van Loan brought his ‘survive and thrive‘ personal ethos to his role as a civic leader here in Columbia and Five Points in particular. The Five Points Association, which owes its credibility to Col. Van Loan’s leadership, mourns for him as we would a family member.

The Five Points Association honored Van Loan's service with a statue in the business district's Centennial Plaza, located at the intersection of Blossom Street and Congaree and Saluda Avenues, in 2016.

Jack Van Loan
The statue of Jack Van Loan in Columbia's Five Points

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin released the following statement in response to the death of Colonel Jack Van Loan:

Columbia and America has lost a true hero in the passing of Colonel Jack Van Loan. After bravely serving his county for years in the U.S. Air Force and as a POW, he continued to serve our community, especially Five Points until his passing. Colonel Van Loan was a wonderful friend, mentor, and role-model to me and many others. In honor of this patriot, flags at City Hall have been lowered to half-staff."