John Kenneth Nevin, 87, of West Chester, a pharmaceutical company vice president and decorated World War II pilot, died of heart failure Tuesday at Paoli Hospital.

Mr. Nevin, who had a pilot's license and flew his own plane at 15, served with the Army Air Force in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. He flew fuel and ammunition in B-24s "over the hump" of the Himalayas to Chinese allies and participated in bombing missions. He received a Bronze Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and an Air Medal with oak-leaf clusters.

Later in the war, Mr. Nevin was stationed at an air base in Miami, where he met his future wife, Alice Wettstine.

After his discharge, he was briefly a commercial pilot before joining Smith Kline & French, now GlaxoSmithKline, in Philadelphia. Mr. Nevin, who used to tell his son, Thomas, that he started out working on the pharmaceutical company's loading dock, became the firm's purchasing agent in 1951. By 1967, he was director of pharmaceuticals manufacturing. He was appointed vice president the next year.

In 1979, Mr. Nevin presided over the topping-off ceremony for SmithKline headquarters at 16th and Race Street. At the time, he was chairman of the board of directors for Franklintown, a Philadelphia neighborhood between Vine and Spring Gardens that was being redeveloped.

After retiring in 1980, Mr. Nevin moved to Stuart, Fla., with his wife. He enjoyed golfing, fishing and boating, and had a commercial fishing license.

He and his wife also renovated several homes in Florida. He was handy with home improvements, his son said, and was a talented cabinetmaker. He made fine furniture, including walnut corner cabinets for his children. He was a high-energy person and "never sat down," his son said.

The couple moved to West Chester in 2005.

Mr. Nevin grew up near Pittsburgh and attended Duquesne University.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Nevin is survived by daughters Cathy Fay and Elizabeth Wilsher, a brother, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Washington Memorial Chapel Cemetery, Route 23, Valley Forge.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.