Sail On, Sailor

John Laughlin

John Thomas Laughlin, 60-year resident of Williston Park, NY, died on March 3, 2013, in Hospice at the Tuttle Center. John was born on December 2, 1925, to James Loughlin and the former Mary Mulligan, both relatively recent immigrants from Ireland. This was a time when even a boy in Jamaica, NY, could still roam local woods and fields, and get a bellyache (for cryin’ out loud!) from eating peaches, grapes, and apples pilfered from the neighbor’s yard.

John lost both of his parents at a tender age, and when the siren song of World War II sounded, he enlisted in the US Navy as a stripling of 17, not even waiting for high school graduation. He served in the Pacific Theater, ultimately attaining the classification of Electrician’s Mate and rank of  Second Class Petty Officer. Fortunately, his wartime experience was not especially hazardous, and in later years, he entertained his children with stories of his escapades, including swimming with a monkey in the Philippines, and rescuing a Chihuahua hanging on for dear life to the pitching deck of a ship. Even today, his kids and grandkids can sing all the verses of The Ballad of the 455, commemorating the LSM that carried him across the seas.

Johnny met the love of his life, Pat O’Toole, while selling tickets to a church dance, and asked her to be his date. They were married two years later, on November 26, 1949. On their wedding night, spent at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, John opened a package of mouthwash, and found this serendipitous prediction on the inside wrapper: “Tonight will be wonderful!” It must have been — this past Thanksgiving, John and Pat celebrated sixty-three years as husband and wife.

The happy couple welcomed six children into the world, and John was a devoted dad. Each December saw a veritable feast of gifts under the Christmas tree, his lucky kids being the unwitting beneficiaries of their dad working several jobs, and spending nights in the garage turning neighbors’ outgrown bicycles into shining chariots. John loved to travel, and almost every year there was a vacation of some sort, frequently involving camping, fishing, and hiking, as well as visits to sites of historical interest, especially forts and battlefields of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

Big John could be stern and maybe curmudgeonly at times, but his kids always knew he loved them. He knew how to tell a good joke (and lots of groaners), and could make even putting groceries away fun with the promise of a license-plate-sized chocolate bar when the job was done.  Friday nights were made special with Dad’s homemade ice cream sodas and banana splits (even though he was probably the only one who ate the bananas!).

Although when all those kids started coming, John had to abandon plans for a degree in electrical engineering, he was always curious and spent many, many hours in self-educational pursuits. He hated to waste time, and combining this pet peeve with his love of learning resulted in lists of German verb conjugations posted in the bathrooms and by the telephone.

John could do – or fix — anything! He was a master carpenter, efficient electrician and plumber, and could kill the biggest, hairiest spider without flinching. He was a talented writer, seeing an interesting story in the most mundane circumstances. He also loved poetry, and gave frequent recitations of his favorite piece, The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes (“…tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot…”), to great acclaim.

John was charter member of a local poker group and played for over fifty years, not often winning, but always having lots of fun. One of his favorite activities was singing with the Long Island Harmonizers Barbershop Chorus, and his quartet, the Long Island Express.

John was preceded in death by his sisters Kitty (Joe Cole) and Helen, brothers Jimmy and Joe, niece Beverly Sharkey, and sister-in-law Kay O’Toole. His irrepressible spirit will live on in the fond memories of his devoted and loving wife Pat, and children Terry (Alice McHugh), Steve (Denise Edkins), Moira (Jerry Papania), Pegeen (Kim Korkan), Sean (Cheryl Smith), and Tara, and grandchildren Fiona, Cari (Rich Loveland), Betsy, Eamon, Rourke, Maeve, Rob, Katy, Davis, Sarah, and Andrew, brother-in-law Gerry O’Toole, and many dear nephews and nieces, particularly Barbara Swofford.

In lieu of John’s wish to be fired out of the torpedo tube on a submarine, a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St Aidan RC Church in Williston Park, with interment at Holy Rood Cemetery.

John was fortunate to have had so many loving friends and relatives, and we will all miss him enormously.


About rangermoi

I'm a former park ranger and teacher, mother of two no-longer-teenage sons, avid cook and reader and the Official Family Memory. I thought I'd better get some of those remembrances down before they all leak out of my senior-moment-affected brain!
This entry was posted in Family, History, Home, Nostalgia, Tribute and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sail On, Sailor

  1. Eve Fleck says:

    What a lovely tribute. He sounds like a great character and I am so sorry for your loss. –Eve Fleck

  2. Frank Collins says:

    Wonderful, Moira. I am sure he’s proud. (Frank Collins)

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