Francis "Frank" Minnock was off at war in the Pacific when the girl he would eventually marry was growing up back home in Astoria, Queens. And he was off at war again nearly three decades later, on their daughter Eileen's wedding day.

"It was clear to me that he hoped I would understand his sense of responsibility, but his regret that he had to be away came through," Eileen Dohrman of Springfield, Vermont, said, recalling a letter her father wrote to her from Vietnam, on the eve of her wedding in 1969. "It was hard not to have him there, but the letter showed me the soft side of him, alongside that strong military presence."

Minnock, a career Navy man who served in three American wars, died Saturday at a hospital in Cortlandt Manor in Westchester, where he was being treated for pneumonia. The East Northport resident was 95.

Minnock was aboard the light cruiser USS Helena in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese struck in 1941. A torpedo tore into the side of the Helena, killing 34 members of the crew, but Minnock survived.

Eighteen months later, the repaired Helena would be hit with three torpedoes during the nighttime Battle of Kula Gulf, northeast of Australia. The ship jackknifed and sank within minutes, spilling Minnock and the rest of the crew into shark-infested waters. Although 168 men would perish, Minnock was rescued by a nearby destroyer.

He dodged death a third time in October 1944 aboard the USS Houston during the Battle of Formosa in the Philippine Sea, when a torpedo slammed into the ship's engine room, leaving the Houston dead in the water. The Houston was towed to safety.

His wife, Eleanor, said she was seven years younger than her future husband, but she wrote to him after Pearl Harbor. He proposed at Manhattan's Stork Club and they married on Dec. 1, 1945.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He was honorably discharged from the Navy in October 1945, but re-enlisted after he completed, in 1947, the business degree from St. John's University he had begun before the start of World War II.

He served in the Korean War, then bought a home in East Northport, his residence since 1952.

After serving in Vietnam, Minnock retired from the Navy in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant commander.

A 1967 Mustang fastback he purchased after returning home became a touchstone of pride, a chariot in which he would ferry his children to Mets games and race at tracks in eastern Long Island.

He volunteered as a driver for Disabled American Veterans, transporting patients to and from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Northport.

@Newsday

In addition to his wife and his daughter, survivors include his sons Christopher, of Ronkonkoma, and Francis, of Bourne, Massachusetts; and his other daughters Kathleen Wirth, of Highland, New York, and Eleanor Pugh, of Randleman, North Carolina.

Services were held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in East Northport. A date for burial at Arlington National Cemetery has not been set.