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Former WWII POW Frederick A. Pilkington, 90

Fred Pilkington passed away at the age of

Fred Pilkington passed away at the age of 90. Credit: Handout

Longtime Long Island school administrator and artist Frederick A. Pilkington survived stepping on a land mine during the Battle of the Bulge and being held in a prisoner of war camp. For his efforts in World War II, he received several awards including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

After all that, he wanted to be the oldest living World War II survivor. But he died at age 90 on July 16 in a hospital near his home on Camano Island, Wash. His death was due to complications from pneumonia, family members said.

"My father was probably one of the strongest men that I knew," said his daughter, Beth Atkinson of Northport. "He was always very supportive of his family and friends."

Pilkington was born in the Bronx in 1922. He was pursuing an English degree with an art minor at upstate Hartwick College when he joined the Army in 1942 and was sent to war.

When he came home, he finished his degree and in 1945, married Ethel May Secor, whom he met before the war.

He lived in West Hempstead for most of his time on Long Island, but first moved to East Meadow in 1950 to teach art at Hempstead High School. He became chairman of the fine arts department and, in 1961, assistant principal. In 1971, he became assistant principal of Mineola High School. He also served as president of the Long Island and New York State art teachers associations.

Pilkington retired from school administration and retired from the Army Reserves as a colonel in 1979.

He was an authoritative administrator, with his 6-foot-4-inch build, but fair, with a "tremendous amount of integrity," said Clare Cooper of Florence, Mass., who was the English department chairwoman when Pilkington started at Mineola High School.

He was "quietly confident," doing the The New York Times crossword in ink, and always welcoming, Cooper said. "Every morning when I came into work, I would stop in his office to chat," she said.

Pilkington's artistic endeavors included paintings and sculptures. When he was a war prisoner, he used wood from the bed frames to carve ornate handles to hold the hot tin coffee cups they were given, his daughter said.

He most often created linoleum prints and etchings. He sold his work through the Graphic Eye Gallery in Port Washington and through a gallery in Washington state, after he moved there with his wife in 1985. She died shortly after the move, and in 1987 he married Mary Derrington.

In addition to his wife and daughter Atkinson, Pilkington is survived by daughter Patricia Mead of upstate Caledonia; son Peter Pilkington of Seattle; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where he will be buried later this year.

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